As any traveller knows, you can always eat well in Italy. The Gargano Peninsula is no exception, and it has an added advantage: the fields, hills and coastline of Gargano, and the surrounding Puglian countryside, are responsible for the production of much of Italy’s food, meaning that everything is made with fresh local ingredients.
The Battle for Wheat
Travelling towards the Gargano Peninsula through the Puglia countryside you will pass vast fields of wheat. These date back to Mussolini’s “Battle for Wheat” after the First World War, when he aimed to make Italy self sufficient for food. Today Puglia continues to supply the country with wheat and flour products, and 80% of Italy’s pasta is produced here.
The Gargano Peninsula itself is too hilly for wheat growing but it is still important for food production. The area is covered with olive groves, grape vines and fruit orchards and wherever you go you will see roadside stalls selling local produce. This region produces 50% of the country’s olive oil, and the village of Carpino is even known as “Oil City” on account of the quality of its extra virgin olive oil.
The Gargano Peninsula is covered with olive groves
Seafood of the Gargano Peninsula
The Peninsula is just as famous for its seafood as for its fruit and olives. Much of the fishing is done in the coastal lagoons of Varano and Lesina: as you travel around look out for the trabucchi, traditional wooden fishing machines that are still widely used today.
Fishing traps on the Lago di Varano
A fisherman sorts through the haul of mussels
The main attraction of the area is its mussels and clams. But any restaurant will also serve you a meal of freshly caught fish, squid or cuttlefish, or the fish soup that is a speciality of the region.
A simple dish of tuna carpaccio
Fresh local ingredients
Like all Italian regions, Gargano has its own wines, cheeses and dried meats which you can find in the markets and grocery shops. But it is best known for its cucina povera (peasant cooking). As the name implies, this is simple food made exceptional by the freshness of the ingredients: there is no need for rich food when you have produce of this quality.
Locally produced meats and cheeses at the market in Vico del Gargano
A plate of typical local antipasti
Have you eaten in the restaurants of the Gargano Peninsula? I’d love to hear your comments.