Peschici is a small town on the top of a cliff-promontory that rises to more than 100 meters above the Adriatic Sea, overlooking the bay below. Towards the north of the Puglia region in south-eastern Italy it is both a seaside resort town and a place of great historical interest.
For those who love the sea, Peschici has famous beaches, with the “fine sand”, to which the small medieval town owes its name. Elsewhere in and around the town there is also much to discover.
A visit to Peschici can start in the picturesque Old Town, where we will find the 'Gate of the Bridge' next to the Imperial Tower. The old town is characterized by whitewashed houses that slope down towards the sea, with small streets reminiscent of Arab cities.
During your tour of the old town you will find the Church of St. Elias and the Church of the Purgatory.
In the Church of Saint Elias, which is dedicated to the patron saint of Peschici, you can read Latin inscriptions, one above the crucifix, the other in the chapel of Prince Pinto (1736). The church probably dates from the 13th century and also contains some paintings by the 17th century Neapolitan school.
The Church of the Purgatory is also known as "Santa Maria del Suffragio", and was formerly used by the nearby Benedictine Abbey of Calena as an ossuary. There is a large painting on the church ceiling representing 'Purgatory, Heaven and Hell', and there are also two skulls, a stone lintel and another wooden doorway, a symbol of all 'churches of the Purgatory' and the cult of the dead.
Also worth a visit at Peschici is the The Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, built between the 16th and 17th centuries on a site where the Virgin appeared to a group of fishermen who then miraculously survived a violent storm.
One of the most charming buildings in Peschici is the Abbey of Santa Maria di Calena, which is about two kilometres away from the Old Town and considered to be one of the oldest in Italy. The Benedictine monks lived here for many years.
A sacred building already existed here by 1023, when the Bishop of Siponto gave an "abandoned church in a place called 'Kalena' and called "Santa Maria" to Tremiti Abbey.
In 1058 the monastery became a powerful Abbey and Popes and Emperors bestowed various privileges on it - its property extended beyond the Gargano area. Some remains of the ancient church and monastery are still visible today: of the ancient church there are two spans, and nearby there are the remains of the second church, dating from the mid-12th century.
Your next stop is Peschici Castle, which, according to recent studies, dates from 970 AD when the Byzantines built a series of fortifications, which were later increased by the Normans. In 1239 the castle was badly damaged after a siege by the Venetian allies of the pope against Frederick II, who rebuilt it. In the Spanish era the castle formed one of the most important defences against the Turks in Apulia.
The castle was restored again in the 18th century by E. Pinto, Prince of Ischitella. Today tourists can visit the basement - inside you can see a large pit, which was probably used for storage of wheat, stored here in case of siege.
A local tradition dating back to the time of the Phoenicians is that of fishing with the so-called 'Trabucchi', a very old fishing system used in northern Gargano that consists of wooden poles placed in the rocks that hold a very large fishing-net that is placed in the water.
The local cuisine is typically Mediterranean with fresh handmade pasta, fresh fish, vegetables, homemade sauces, oil and vinegar products. Among the local dishes are the stuffed eggplant with homemade "orecchiette" and the spaghetti sauce of cuttlefish and grilled mullet. Another 'must try' at Peschici are the cakes made from almond paste typical of the Gargano.
See also history of Peschici