Hill Towns of Gargano, Italy: Vieste and Vico del Gargano

Vieste
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Drive around the Gargano Peninsula, in the Puglia region of Italy, and you will see towns and villages perched on the hilltops. With their white-walled buildings many of these towns look as if time has passed them by, providing a glimpse of a way of life that seems to have disappeared from other parts of Italy. I visited two of the region’s most historic hill towns, Vieste and Vico del Gargano. (Read more about another hill town of the region – Monte Sant’Angelo.)

Vieste, Capital of the Gargano Peninsula

Vieste, the capital of the Gargano region, is the most popular town for tourists. This is partly due to its coastal location, on tall cliffs between two sandy beaches. This makes it attractive to beach lovers and cruise ship passengers. However, the town itself is well worth a visit.

Walk through the leafy town square to the maze of stepped streets and alleyways that make up the old town. Right at the top is the Vieste Castle, a Norman fortress from the early middle ages (the first recorded mention dates back to the 11th century). Although the castle is not open to visitors, you can walk around the outside and enjoy the views.

Vieste Cathedral
The interior of the Cathedral was decked out for the Festa a Maria

Nearby is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Built in the Romanesque style in the 11th century the elaborate structure reflects the wealth and the importance of the region in the middle ages. When I visited the cathedral was decked out for the Festa a Maria, one of numerous saints’ days that are celebrated in the region.

Harbour at Vieste
View of the harbour from the Borgo Antico restaurant

As you walk around the town you can often catch sight of the sea and the harbour far below: I had a particularly fine view from the terrace of the Borgo Antico where I stopped for lunch. Or you can take a boat trip to get a view of the town from the water.

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Vico del Gargano, City of Love

Set on a hill in the Parco di Gargano, the walled town of Vico del Gargano is often known as the “City of Love”. This is a reference to Saint Valentine, the town’s patron saint. If you visit during February you may catch the Festa di San Valentino, one of Vico’s many saints’ day festivals.

Vico del Gargano
Typical narrow streets of Vico del Gargano

Vico del Gargano has a long history, dating back to prehistoric times. Today you can wander through the narrow streets of the medieval town, which is compact and easy to walk around. Look out for the 11th century castle (now converted into apartments but you can go into the courtyard) and explore the numerous churches. Be sure not to miss the Chiesa di Santa Maria Pura, an 18th century church built a little way down the hill on the site of the Fontana Vecchia (old spring).

Santa Maria Pura, Vico del Gargano
Entrance to the hillside church of Santa Maria Pura

Leaving the historic area walk towards the old Capuchin Convent on the edge of the town, passing grape vines and olive groves as you go. Near the convent you will find a centuries old oak tree (no-one is quite sure of its age!), a First World War memorial arboretum, and a viewpoint where you can look out over the hills towards the coast.

Historic areas of Vieste and Vico del Gargano
Pinnable image of the historic areas of Vieste and Vico del Gargano

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16 thoughts on “Hill Towns of Gargano, Italy: Vieste and Vico del Gargano”

  1. This looks like such a beautiful place! I was thinking of an Italian mini-break after my 5 month trip finishes (to make the transition back to real life easier!!) and this might be the perfect spot 🙂

  2. It would be a great place for a short break. If you're there in high season (from now to August) you might want to avoid the narrow coastal strip but anywhere inland (including Vieste and Vico which are on hills) would still be lovely traditional places to visit.

  3. I love little alleyways with little archways and balconies. Very Mediterranean, I love getting lost in them and just wonder around on aimless exploring. This looks like a beautiful place to get lost in.

  4. Vico del Gargano is really an OLD town. The stepped streets of Vieste are so beautiful. I like old an narrow streets especially in Italy. They have something special to them.

  5. A charming place! I really like the shot of the old street – the shadows and light create a but of mystique. I'm definitely getting the itch to get back to Italy from these posts.

  6. Another lovely little place I hadn't known about or even heard of. You can spend a lifetime checking out all of these little towns. (Probably not a bad idea if you can pull it off. 🙂 )

  7. This makes me want to return to Italy immediately – I love little towns and this looks like a wonderful one! Those narrow little streets are just full of so much character. 🙂

  8. Where would Italy be without its alleyways and churches! Whenever I visit small towns in Italy I always peak my head around church doors, on most occasions I have been pleasantly surprised by what lies behind the doors. It may look simple on the outside but its often beautiful inside. Just like the cathedral 🙂

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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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