Gargano, Italy: travel guide and places to visit
The Gargano peninsula is one of the most attractive coastal regions in southern Italy.
It is a region of south-east Italy that forms a promontory into the Adriatic Sea, to the north of the Puglia (Apulia) region. The centre of the Gargano is an isolated region of hills and mountains, much of which is now designated as the Gargano National Park, while the coastal region is a mix of impressive scenery, with cliffs plunging to the shore and interspersed with beaches and resorts.
For many centuries the region was only visited by pilgrims on their way to the shrine at Monte Sant'Angelo and there is still little important development within the higher regions of Gargano, but below the hills and around the coast there are several towns of historical interest and it is now the many popular resorts based along the beaches of the promontory that attracts most visitors to Gargano.
The Gargano National Park was established to ensure that although the coast is rather developed, the inland part of the Gagano peninsula would be protected and preserved for future generations.
Explore Gargano: tourism and travel guide
Much of the appeal of the region is the chance to combine a visit to the coast with the opportunity to enjoy attractive scenery - both inland and with the cliffs and coves along the coast - and explore historic towns and villages. Several of the most popular resorts (the most developed are Peschici and Vieste) combine sandy beaches with historic towns, while many of the other towns and villages are also interesting to explore. See details for the principal destinations:
The historic centre of Cagnano Varano, called Terravecchia, is a medieval quarter with a castle and several interesting churches
Carpino is a small town, still based around farming, that has a historic centre of tall colourful houses and narrow streets
The setting above the sea, the nearby beaches, the natural environement and historic churches all combine to make Iscitella a popular village with visitors
Lesina Lake and Varano Lake, and the natural environment they enjoy, attracts naturalists to the town of Lesina
See Lesina (to the west)
Poised high on cliffs above the Adriatic, Peschici combines the advantages of a popular resort with an interesting historic town
In Manfredonia, in the south of Gargano, it is the churches and castle that are the main sites of historic interest to visitors, including the 12th century Santa Maria di Soponto Church
At the popular seaside resort of Mattinata there is lovely coastline to enjoy, and the narrow streets of the historic village to explore
The attractive town of Monte Sant'Angelo is well known for the shrine to the Archangel Michael and the Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo. It is the final destination of the pilgrimage route from San Severo that passes through San Marco in Lamis and San Giovanni Rotondo.
Rignano Garganico is on a raised plateau to the west of the Gargano, and has an unspoiled medieval town centre centred around the village church and a palace
Although it is the long sandy beaches that attract visitors here, be sure to also explore the interesting centre of Rodi Garganico
San Giovanni Rotondo
In the rolling hills of the western Gargano, at San Giovanni Rotondo the religious monuments are the principal attraction
San Marco in Lamis
There are several places of interest including a long established monastery in the pilgrim town of San Marco in Lamis
It is the steep streets of the historic centre of San Nicandro that are the main focus of your visit to San Nicandro
Highlights of the natural environment
The wooded area in the eastern part of the Gargano National Park occupies some areas of the highest hills and includes almost all species of the Mediterranean bush, such as oaks, mastic, olive, fern and holly. In the park there are also many varieties of birds such as owls, sparrows, robins, swallows and crows.
This is one of the few places in Italy where you can still explore an unspoiled ancient forest, and there are numerous trails through the forest that enable you to make the most of your visit. Start at the visitors centre in Villago Umbra, in the heart of the forest.
The characteristic mountainous landscapes of Gargano also includes natural small craters known as sinkholes. The largest sinkhole is called Centopozzi, a name that refers to the numerous wells in the area around Rignano. Centopozzi ('hundred wells') is also very popular with tourists and nature lovers in the Gargano National Park
To the north it is the natural landscape around the lakes of Lesina and Varano that attracts visitors.
Also worth seeing is the dolmen (dolmen is a tomb of the prehistoric Neolithic period, built with a few rough stones planted upright in the ground in support of a large horizontal slab) of Rignano Garganico, discovered in 2001. The monument is situated on the plain of the Virgin of Christ, not far from the “Paglicci” Cave.