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Manfredonia is a town with medieval origins in the southern part of the Gargano region of Apulia in south-east Italy, near the Adriatic coast. It is the "daughter" town of the ancient Greek - Roman city of 'Sipontum'.
While it is true that Manfredonia itself isn't a major tourist destination, the nearby beaches and the resort of Siponto attract many holidaymakers each year, and a trip to Manfredonia is an interesting excursion.
Explore Manfredonia: tourism and travel guide
As well as wandering the streets of Manfredonia the harbour is a lively and colourful place to start your visit to the town.
As you explore Manfredonia, it is useful to realise that the city plan dates back to the Swabians - the original plan is still maintained, although the medieval walls were gradually demolished by the end of the 19th century or incorporated into new buildings constructed on the outskirts of the old town.
At the entrance to the old town, along the Corso Manfredi (the main axis of the town) and the Via Campanile, you reach Manfredonia Cathedral, which was built by order of Archbishop Pietro Francesco Orsini in 1680 after the destruction of the ancient gothic Cathedral.
The original cathedral was destroyed by the Turks in 1620, after which reconstruction was slow. Hardship in the town at that time explains why the new version is more modest in size than the ancient Cathedral.
Further work on the cathedral was carried out in the 17th century when the Archbishop Vincenzo Maria Orsini (later Pope Benedict XIII) recovered the sacred relics, completed the façade and built the Bell (1677).
The interior of the Cathedral was decorated by the painter Natale Penati (1884-1955) and also has three important works of medieval art: the icon of "Madonna di Siponto"; a wooden statue of "Madonna with child" called The Sipontina; and a wooden 12th century crucifix from the Church of San Leonardo.
There are several other churches of interest to visit, including the Church of San Domenico. The ruins of the chapel here are in the style of the Swabians period of domination. After the death of Manfredi, the Anjou family completed the construction of the church towards the end of the 18th century at which tie it became a gothic style church with three naves and a rich portal, embellished by two column-bearing Lions.
In 1294 the convent of the Dominican Friars Preachers was built close to the Church - hence it was called San Domenico. Inside the church the most artistically important works are the paintings of the "Pietà" and the tree of "Jesse", located in the old chapel, while along the side walls of the nave saints have painted on the marble altars.
Another church of interest is the Church of San Benedetto which consists of a large single nave, with side walls adorned by pairs of pilasters decorated with stucco. Along the walls there are four altars, accompanied by three paintings and a 17th century crucifix. The paintings depict St. Benedict, St. Lucia and the Assumption (artists unknown). The only paintings signed and dated in the church (1767) are those of the side walls of the presbytery representing the Annunciation and the Holy family, by the Italian painter F.S. Serio (18th century).
The Church of San Francesco was built in 1348 by Archbishop Peter II, who introduced the order of the Friars Minor to Manfredonia. The church interior holds a 17th century wooden crucifix and a 17th century painting of “The Nativity” by Bernardo and Giulio Licinio.
The Church of Santa Chiara was consecrated in 1680 by Cardinal Orsini. Along the side walls of the nave three large arches open to the right and left, below which there are five Baroque altars: four of these are covered with polychrome marbles and the fifth is engraved wood.
Other sights in Manfredonia
The city centre is in and around the Piazza del Popolo, overlooked by the Town Hall, the former monastery of San Domenico, which incorporates the remains of the old chapel, built by Charles II of Anjou (1285-1309).
The building retains its original façade, an arched portal with two lions (1294-99) and the frame of a rosette (restored) while the inside is decorated with contemporary paintings.
Manfredonia Castle was started by King Manfred between 1256 and 1259 and was finished under Charles of Anjou. It has a quadrilateral tower and four angular towers (three cylindrical and one quadrilateral), the latter towers being added in the 16th century.
The fourth tower, facing towards the city, was replaced by a pentagonal bastion after the siege of 1528 and is designed to support artillery shots. Restored in the 20th century, the castle is now the seat of the National Archaeological Museum of the Gargano.
National Archaeological Museum of the Gargano
Among other prehistoric artefacts in the museum there is a Cup from the 6th century BC, some jars in the Mycenaean style, bronzes and ceramics from Mount Saraceno and the so-called “Stele Daunie” (“Daunia Stone”).
Almost two thousand of these limestone “stele daunie” have been found and date from the 7th-6th century BC. They are a type of funerary stone monument from the 'Dauni' civilisation, decorated on all four sides. The figurative scenes represent human figures, animals, funeral scenes and representations of daily activities.
To visit near Manfredoia
After exploring Manfredonia you can visit - or return to - Siponto, a seaside resort just two kilometres from Manfredonia that is known for its beach and the sea, rich in shells, starfish, sponges, sea-horses and fish. The main monument of interest in Siponto itself is the 11th century Church of Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto
See also history of Manfredonia
You can find more local travel ideas in the Puglia guide.