Things to do on the Gargano Peninsula, Italy

Cyclist in the Umbra Forest
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There is far more to Italy than the tourist hotspots, and the Gargano National Park is comparatively neglected by overseas visitors. Covering most of the Gargano Peninsula, this is the part of Puglia, in the far south of Italy, that sticks out like a spur on the heel. It is an area that deserves to be better known: a beautiful region with plenty to see and do.

Walking, Cycling and Wildlife Spotting

As long as you don’t mind hills, the Gargano National Park is an ideal place for walking. There are footpaths everywhere and many of the country roads are quiet enough for a peaceful stroll. Much of the peninsular is covered by the woodland of the Umbra Forest, an enormous area that is well supplied with footpaths, car parks and picnic sites. The forest is popular with cyclists, too, providing welcome shade from the sun during the steep uphill sections!

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

Or you can walk part of the ancient Pilgrim Trail along the coast from Monte Sant’Angelo towards Vieste. Wherever you walk or cycle, look out for the abundant wildlife of the area. The coastal wetlands in particular are a great place for birdwatching; elsewhere see if you can spot the elusive wild boar or wild cats that are said to roam the forests. And in spring your way will be lined by a multi-coloured carpet of wild flowers.

Spring flowers
In spring there are wild flowers everywhere

Explore the Gargano Hill Towns

This is a mountainous region and, where there are hills, there are hill towns. One of the most famous is Monte Sant’Angelo, with its UNESCO designated sanctuary and hilltop castle, but you might also like to try Vieste, the regional capital, or Vico del Gargano, an old walled town with a castle and numerous churches.

Vico del Gargano
Typical narrow streets of Vico del Gargano

Wander the narrow passages and stepped streets, dip into old churches and soak up the atmosphere of places where time seems to have stood still. While away the time in a local bar or enjoy a leisurely meal at a family run restaurant.

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Hit the Beach

I’m not a beach person myself but there is no denying that beaches are one of the attractions of the Gargano Peninsula, and one of the reasons why the Italians themselves choose to holiday here. It’s easy to see why: the miles of shimmering yellow sand, blue sea and southern Italian sunshine are a winning combination.

I arrived before the start of the season (it wasn’t quite hot enough for serious sun-worshippers at the beginning of May), and watched the beaches being prepared for visitors. A man was driving a tractor over the sand to make it glisteningly clean, and rows of brightly coloured deckchairs and umbrellas were being set out. But I preferred to step over the uncombed sections to look for shells and seaweed.

Sample the Food of the Gargano Peninsula

The keynote of food in Puglia is simple, fresh ingredients. Whether it is fruit and vegetables, locally produced ham and cheese, or the mussels for which the region is renowned, everything is of the highest quality. Even a plain meal of pasta and tomato sauce is transformed when the sauce is made with tomatoes ripened on the vine and topped with fresh basil that tastes as if it has just been picked.

Pasta with tomato sauce
Even the simplest meal is sensational when made with fresh local ingredients

Even if you don’t want to buy anything it is a pleasure to walk around the food markets and to see what is on offer. And of course you will want to try some of the region’s restaurants. There are no chains or fast food restaurants here – instead you will get friendly service and freshly cooked food.

If you have any more ideas for things to do on the Gargano Peninsula, I’d love to hear from you.

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11 thoughts on “Things to do on the Gargano Peninsula, Italy”

  1. Thanks for introducing me to this part of Italy, Karen. It's nice to hear that there are areas where you won't run into a fast food sign and have some excellent local specialties awaiting. Did you have a chance to try the mussels? I'm in a landlocked country right now and the thought of fresh seafood is just too much 🙂 I hope to have some time in Italy before too long and this looks like an excellent spot to spend a few days.

  2. Rashad Pharaon

    I'd love to cycle through the forest paths, stop at a local restaurant, then head to the beach. I adore the architecture, amazing how more detail-oriented we were decades ago.

  3. It's hiking & biking, along with interesting food 🙂 that attracts me these days. So this looks quite inviting. Especially as I've ever visited this part of Italy.

  4. Shh dont tell too many people. I especially like the towns that are not bustling with tourist. In a way its a same that they miss out on the beauty of the less popular and in other ways you can enjoy these places in peace and fully immerse yourself in all its corners of local culture.

  5. I love doing things outdoors, and I love good food. It sounds like I'd love Puglia's Gagano Peninsula then! I'm getting really excited to visit Italy in July 🙂

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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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