A Hike in the Umbra Forest, Gargano National Park

Umbra Forest, Puglia
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It was cool and shady, the path stretching invitingly into the distance. And birds calling out from every tree. I was in the Umbra Forest, part of the Gargano National Park, in Puglia in the far south of Italy. With miles of woodland tracks, the forest is the ideal place for hiking or cycling.

The Umbra Forest

The Gargano National Park covers the whole of the Gargano Peninsula, including the coastal wetlands and hill towns such as Monte Sant’Angelo, Vieste and Vico del Gargano. However it is dominated by the Umbra Forest, a mixed forest with some ancient trees. This is a hilly landscape, full of valleys and caves, providing homes for a variety of animals and birds.

Umbra Forest, Puglia
The path winds down through the Umbra Forest

The Foresta Umbra (“shady forest”) is so-called because of the density of its vegetation. When I visited in May the ground was carpeted with flowers; in autumn it must be the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of fungus. For many visitors the main attraction is the miles of walking tracks through the forest. The trails wind down and around the slopes. They look old but they were in fact created for leisure use by the park authorities.

White flowers
At this time of year the forest was full of spring flowers

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Hiking in the Umbra Forest

We parked near the Rifugio Sfilzi. In ancient times the park refuges – basic stone shelters – were places where shepherds and other travellers could find food and rest as they passed through the park. Sfilzi still acts as a lodging today (although there may not be so many shepherds now). It also advertises the sale of local produce including olive oil and preserves.

Trees in the Umbra Forest
We could hear that the trees were full of birds, but they kept out of sight

Setting off down the track, we were alone apart from the birds (which we could hear but not see) and several butterflies flitting between the abundant spring flowers. Eventually we passed a lone cyclist pedalling up the hill; he must have been grateful for the shade!

Bridge in the Umbra Forest
We enjoyed our picnic on a lonely bridge deep in the forest

We saw a few more cyclists and a couple of walkers but most of the time we had the park to ourselves. We sat on an old bridge to eat our picnic and to soak up the peace and quiet of the forest before tackling the upwards climb back to the car.

Cyclist in the Umbra Forest
This cyclist must have been glad of the shade when pedalling uphill!

Not Just for Walkers

The park is just as popular with cyclists as it is with walkers. If the idea of cycling up hills puts you off, you could try an e-bike guided tour. Perhaps surprisingly, given the terrain, it is also seen as a place for running. The Gargano Running Week takes place here each year in April. This is a massive event with activities throughout the Gargano National Park, but including several forest runs. There are clearly many different ways to enjoy the tranquil open spaces of the Umbra Forest.

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17 thoughts on “A Hike in the Umbra Forest, Gargano National Park”

  1. This park looks perfect for a shaded walk on a warm summer afternoon. Even better that you guys practically had it to yourself! I've really enjoyed your posts on this region. When I get back to Italy I look forward to exploring Gargano, so thank you for introducing me to this area.

  2. I want to kick myself everytime I visit your blog. I was in Italy for an entire YEAR, and all I saw was Milan, Rome and Torino!!! Would have loved to spend a weekend in this area… DAMMMIT!!!!

  3. I love walking through the forest and on a day like that, when you have it all to yourself, it doesn't get much better. Hope you enjoyed the picnic 😉

  4. Thanks again for more insight into this area. Nice spot. I can't decide if I'd be walking or biking. Probably a combination of both.

  5. Beautiful pictures. They remind me of my walking trails when I was in Peterborough and the one I go to on the weekend in Essex. I already love Italy so I think this is another place I should be adding to my list.

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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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