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Apulia: the sunny region between two seas and warm hospitality in places rich in history

Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, it is a magical combination of artefacts, history, art and unspoilt nature, amidst beautiful coastlines and picture-postcard landscapes. This is Puglia, a region of golden beaches and crystal-clear waters, intense flavours and fascinating destinations: Castel del Monte, the trulli, the islands passing through towns kissed by a unique and unforgettable light.

  • In evidenza
Nature
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The Gargano National Park

The Gargano National Park, an island full of biodiversity The Gargano National Park is situated in the spur of Italy, the promontory extending into the Adriatic Sea in the northern part of Apulia. It is a unique area, where 35 per cent of all Italian botanical species can be found, reflecting an equally wide variety of landscapes, from the sea of the Tremiti Islands to important wetlands that lap against dense forests. This is an ancient land, rich in culture, art and spirituality, with a diverse beauty. A surprising microcosm of different habitats The guiding thread of every visit to the Gargano National Park is to observe the variety of its habitats, which is reflected in a mosaic of landscapes. In an area no larger than an average Italian province, you will discover fine sandy beaches interspersed with high cliffs with caves and natural archways, coastal lakes and wetlands, stretches of Mediterranean bush bordering on thousand-year-old forest, karstic plateaus with sinkholes alternating with hills and steppe plains on which there are white villages such as Rodi Garganico, Vieste, Peschici on the coast or Ischitella, Mattina or Monte Sant'Angelo, all with sea views. If we add to this the fact that, from a geological perspective, the promontory was originally an island separated from the rest of the Italian peninsula, the variety is further increased by the presence of endemisms, i.e. species that only exist in this region, for example the campanula garganica or the Tremiti cornflower. This explains why the Gargano promontory astonishes naturalists and will amaze you too. The sculpted landscape of the Gargano The high white cliffs of the Adriatic coast seem sculpted, and the karst valleys that the action of rain makes deeper and deeper also appear sculpted. There are at least 4,000 sinkholes, cavities of karstic origin, to be found in the park: the one at Pozzatina, in the municipality of San Nicandro Garganico, is the most impressive. It is 132 metres deep and looks like a basin covered by a dense wood of holm oaks and oak trees. On the coast are several caves and natural arches formed by the force of the sea, which can be visited by boat from the ports of Vieste and Peschici. The wetlands of the Varano and Lesina lagoons The first person to chronicle the wetlands in the Gargano park was none other than the Swabian emperor Frederick II (1194-1250). In his treatise De arte venandi cum avibus (the art of hunting with birds), he describes falconry and the birdlife he observed mainly in Apulia in the marshy areas of Frattarolo and Lake Salso, today in the municipality of Manfredonia, known as the Swamps of Frederick II, which are rich in reed thickets, ideal places for birdwatching. In the northern area of the park, behind the dunes, are the lakes of Varano and Lesina, basins of brackish water that were created by the accumulation of debris that filled in coastal bays. Today, the lakes are considered important wetlands, as resting stations for migratory birds on their way from northern Europe to Africa. The entire limestone area of the Gargano is also rich in springs and pools of water that are vital for amphibians and reptiles. The animals and plants of the Gargano park Among the animals you can see in their natural habitat in the park is the Italian roe deer, an endemic subspecies that only lives here, as well as numerous wild boars, fallow deer, weasels and wild cats. There are numerous birds nesting in the Gargano, around 170 species, including five different types of woodpeckers, diurnal birds of prey, ospreys, the rare lesser duck eagle, as well as ducks, herons, wild geese and flamingos. There are some centuries-old trees, true monuments of nature, such as the 13-metre carob tree in the park of Pugnochiuso, in the municipality of Vieste, or the two 30-metre high Aleppo pines in Vico Gargano, where there is also a 17-metre high holm oak with a 5-metre diameter trunk, near the Capuchin monastery. As for the beech forests of the Foresta Umbra, these were designated a Unesco Natural World Heritage Site in 2017. And then come the flowers: 85 species of wild orchids of all colours and shapes bloom in the clearings and steppe grasslands. The Tremiti Islands The archipelago of the Tremiti Islands, 12 miles off the Gargano coast, is also part of the park and is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean. Due to the crystal clear waters, the caves and the wealth of underwater life, they are a paradise for diving enthusiasts. There are five small islands, of which only two (San Domino and San Nicola) are inhabited, two others (Capraia and Cretaccio) are little more than rocks, while Pianosa is inaccessible because it is in the Protected Marine Area nature reserve. San Domino, where the accommodation establishments are located, is covered by a dense forest of Aleppo pines that descend to the sea, shading small sandy coves and rocks: the ideal place for those who love to be surrounded by nature alone for a holiday by the sea.
Art & Culture

Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare, white cliffs of Puglia Perched on the edge of a high cliff rising from the Adriatic Sea, Polignano a Mare is one of the most spectacular and popular locations on the Apulian coast. The historic centre of this seaside village is a maze of narrow streets that slope down towards a tiny beach, the Lama Monachile, which cuts the cliff in two. Underneath the town, a tangle of caves invites you to discover a crystal-clear sea. Polignano is also the birthplace of Domenico Modugno, the singer-songwriter of “Volare”, the most famous Italian song in the world. All lanes lead to the sea The historic core of Polignano a Mare, an inhabited centre since Neolithic times, is an expanse of white houses of medieval origin clustered on the cliffs. The village is entered by passing under the 16th-century Arco Marchesale, also known as Porta Grande, which until 1780 was the only point of access to the village that was surrounded by a moat, now hidden by Piazza Garibaldi, with its drawbridge. You can get lost in the narrow streets of Polignano, sooner or later you will land at an overlook to the sea and the surprise effect will be even greater. A selfie at Lama Monachile, a small beach with turquoise water You will undoubtedly find the 13th century Chiesa Matrice, the Marchesale palace, home of the feudal lords, the Orologio palace and the 4 defensive towers. The most photographed place in Polignano a Mare is its turquoise-water beach, Lama Monachile, always very crowded in the summer months: the bridge behind it is built over a Roman bridge of the Via Traiana, the Rome-Brindisi road of antiquity, which passed right through here. Next door, on the promenade, you will see the statue dedicated to the world's most famous Polignanese, singer Domenico Modugno. On the opposite side of town, again with a spectacular sea view, is the beautiful museum of the Pino Pascali Foundation an artist from Polignano who died in the 1960s, which displays contemporary art exhibitions. What to see around Polignano a Mare The ambience of Polignano a Mare can be relished as you stroll along the cliffs and down to the shoreline from which the view of the white city is spectacular. A forty-minute walk in the direction of Nola, between the delightful bays of Ponte dei Lapilli and Porto Cavallo, both ideal for bathing, will take you to the village of San Vito, unmistakable because of the remains of the abbey of the same name dating back to the 9th century, to the time of the Basilian monks who took refuge in these lands to escape the iconoclastic struggles of the Byzantine Empire. A little further on is the quadrangular tower of San Vito in front of a stretch of sea that looks like a natural swimming pool. During the day as well as in the evening, in this idyllic place, which is also full of clubs and restaurants, you will never be alone: Polignano's nightlife reaches here. Caves and cliff diving There are about twenty caves that the sea has created with the force of its waves on the cliff on which Polignano stands: the largest is the Palazzese cave, so called because it is located under a noble palace from which it could be accessed. Today, the palace has been transformed into a five-star hotel that has created restaurant rooms in the natural recesses of the cliff and the cave remains accessible by sea. Some other caves have the most unthinkable names, mostly related to their use over time: that of the Archbishop's Palace is said to have been connected through tunnels to the bishop's palace, that of the Nuns was used by the religious sisters of the hospital. The most striking one is the Ardito, named after its owners, which has a natural column inside that fishermen used to climb up to the village. What to eat in Polignano al mare On one of the many terraces overlooking the reef, in Polignano's many restaurants, you can enjoy year-round dishes of seafood crudités, a mixture of cuttlefish, prawns, scampi and many other fish depending on the season and the catch. For those who prefer their fish well cooked, then the dish to try is rice, potatoes and mussels. Another local speciality is the sweet Polignano carrot, grown right in the area of San Vito Abbey, recognised as a Slow Food presidium. One coffee, but special: with lemon peel and cream If you prefer street food, so you don't miss a minute of the beach, then try the fish sandwich, with tuna tartare, burrata and tomatoes, or the fried octopus and turnip tops, a real treat. At the end of a meal, treat yourself to Caffè Speciale, according to a recipe developed right here in Polignano: it is a sweetened coffee with added lemon peel, cream and amaretto, always served in a small glass.
Region

Pulsing heart of the Mediterranean, cradle of ancient civilisations and with a spectacular sea

Apulia: the sunny region between two seas and warm hospitality in places rich in history. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, it is a magical combination of artefacts, history, art and unspoilt nature, amidst beautiful coastlines and picture-postcard landscapes. This is Puglia, a region of golden beaches and crystal-clear waters, intense flavours and fascinating destinations: Castel del Monte, the trulli, the islands passing through towns kissed by a unique and unforgettable light.

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