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The town and resort of Mattinata are situated at the foot of the “Monte Sacro”, a hill known in antiquity as 'Dodoneo' and on which there is an ancient temple.
Mattinata includes a popular seaside resort with a nice sandy beach as well as the original village, a short distance from the sea and with small narrow streets, old stone steps and historic buildings to explore. Be sure to drag yourself away from the coast for a while because Mattinata has a great deal of historical interest to discover.
We realise that the coast around here is exceptional with lovely south-facing beaches set against a backdrop of white cliffs and rock formations in the turquoise sea, and olive plantations running up the hillside but we will assume that at some point you tire of all that and would like to see some ancient ruins...
Among the first things to visit in Mattinata are the ruins of the Roman Villa of Agnuli. Just a few meters from the sea at the entrance to the small harbour you can see the remains of stately houses dating from the 4th century AD, the walls of which were built with small brick wall posts and herringbone floors.
G. Volpe, who studied the house, writes "[...] The site chosen for the location of the villa is ideal, it is connected with the farm belonging to the master of the villa, which was cultivated by slaves. It is near a creek where there was probably a small port for ships the products of the villa were placed [...]. "
Archaeological excavations have uncovered several rooms in the house, particularly a series of rectangular tanks that were used for processing oil (even today Mattinata is a large producer of olive oil).
Archaeology has exposed many other valuable artefacts in Mattinata, so a visit can continue with the Necropolis of Monte Saraceno. A panoramic road leads to the edge of the Mount where there are 500 tombs in the necropolis.
The dead were buried along with the objects dearest to them: shields and other objects covered the graves of stone slabs, according to the importance of the deceased.
Some of these finds are now in the Civic Museum. Opened in 1990, the museum holds tombs (with pins, brooches, rings, bronzes, vases) and sculptures from the Daunia necropolis (7th-6th century BC) from Mount Saraceno. In the courtyard of the museum you can see two stone boulders with dinosaur footprints that were found in the marina.
Another place of great importance in Mattinata is the remains of the Benedictine Abbey. The SS. Trinity complex was built on the summit of Monte Sacro between the 5th and 9th century around a former monastery. The construction covered 6,500 square metres and the perimeter walls, the porch and the massive pillars all remind us of the splendour of this powerful Abbey, which controlled most of the fertile grounds of Mattinata in the 12th century.
S. Fulloni tells us that: "[...] The isolated location of the monastery, the lack of maintenance, and degradation by the weather contributed to the loss of important parts of the building. Very many of the nearby farms are built from blocks from SS. Trinity, and even Mattinata was partially re-built in the 18th century with the same materials [...]".
Mattinata: local traditions and cuisine
Visitors interested in local artefacts will find a thriving craft industry in Mattinata, with local handicrafts focusing on woodworking, pottery and wrought iron. Typical of these are the kitchen utensils (spoons, forks, plates) derived from olive wood and large hand-painted clay dishes.
Mattinata has been a city of olive oil and almonds since ancient times, used especially for sweets. Other local products include sun-dried tomatoes in oil, artichokes, the so-called "lampascioni”, asparagus in olive oil, and olives in brine (excellent as an appetizer or intermezzo between courses). Another local treat is the wild rocket that accompanies many local dishes.
Lastly we give a particular mention to the local cheeses (sheep and goat) that are derived from an ancient pastoral culture that include “ricotta”, "canestrai", sheep’s milk cheeses and the "cacioricotta”.
See also history of Mattinata
Where is Mattinata?
It is situated to the south-east of the popular coastal and pilgrimage destination called Gargano, in the Puglia region of southern Italy and on a peninsula facing into the Adriatic Sea.