Food of the Gargano Peninsula, Italy

Market stall with meats and cheeses
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As any traveller knows, you can always eat well in Italy. The Gargano Peninsula in Puglia is no exception, but it has some added advantages. The fields, hills and coastline of the Gargano National Park, 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. And the coastal area is famous for its seafood.

Food Production in Puglia

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 citrus orchards, and wherever you go you will see roadside stalls selling local produce.

Olive trees
The Gargano Peninsula is covered with olive groves

The region produces 50% of Italy’s olive oil. The hill town of Carpino has been dubbed “Oil City” on account of the quality of its extra virgin olive oil. And in Vico del Gargano you can visit the Trappeto Maratea, an oil museum housed in an underground mill dating back to the 14th century.

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Seafood of the Gargano Peninsula

Gargano is just as important for its seafood as for its fruit and olives. Fishing tends to be done in the traditional way, by small scale enterprises. Much of it is done in the coastal lagoons of Varano and Lesina. As you travel around look out for the wooden fishing machines, or trabucchi: an ancient fishing practice that is still in use today.

Mussel fishing
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 you can try the fish soup (ciambotto) that is a speciality of the region.

Tuna carpaccio
A simple dish of tuna carpaccio

The Cucina Povera of the Gargano Region

Locally produced meats include lamb and goat, and herbs grow wild on the hillsides. Because Puglia is a wheat growing region pasta is a staple, often made in the local fashion, without egg. And, like all Italian regions, Gargano has its own wines, cheeses and dried meats which you can find in the markets and grocery shops.

Market stall with meats and cheeses
Locally produced meats and cheeses at the market in Vico del Gargano

But the Gargano Peninsula best known for its cucina povera (peasant cooking). As the name implies, this is simple food, recalling the days when people had to make do with whatever was available. But it was made exceptional by the freshness of the ingredients; there is no need for rich food when you have produce of this quality.

Antipasti
A plate of typical local antipasti

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12 thoughts on “Food of the Gargano Peninsula, Italy”

  1. Sadly we didn't make it into the Gargano Peninsula but we loved eating all over Italy – from the North to the South and onto Sicily, so much good food can be found in Italy! Luckily Travis' mother's family is from Italy so we can head over to Nona's every now and then for some travel for our taste buds!

  2. Mediterranean countries have been recently pushing back on EU regulations concerning food products – the aim is to maintain local traditions, local suppliers, and that unique flavour that you can not only taste, but also see in the entire process. Let me tell you that after reading all of this, I think I will need to plan a third trip to Italy.

  3. I've been loving the Gargano views and cultural posts, but this is my favorite. I really like those shots of the nets and fishermen – seeing the labor that goes into a delicious seafood meal makes it more enjoyable. Also, that plate of locally-sourced antipasti looks heavenly.

  4. This all looks so good! Fresh local ingredients really are the most delicious, plus they're so much fun to try when you travel. I haven't been to Italy yet but have heard incredible things about its food and culture. Nice photos too!

  5. myadventuresacrosstheworld

    I have only been to Puglia once, and for a very short time, so I did not get to enjoy its food much. Here in Italy it is well known for its food and olive oil, although I must say I am from Sardinia and we have a dispute over the quality of oil and bread and seafood and what not. You are going to have to come over to try ours 🙂

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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