Gargano: a piece of paradise on the spur of the Italian boot

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The beach on Baia e Cala Campi, Gargano

We arrive safely in the port of Salerno and had planned to stop at a campsite near Pompeii to visit Herculaneum and Vesuvius, but a tip from a friend who had recently visited and was disappointed, made us rethink. So, we are off on an adventure again – definition; an exciting experience that is typically a bold (sometimes risky) undertaking – with only half a plan. We need to head to the east coast to catch a ferry to Croatia in 4 days, so following a recommendation from someone we met at a campsite and a quick review of our Italian guidebook, we decide to drive to the Gargano coastline in Puglia, with no particular expectations. The Gargano Peninsula juts out into the Adriatic Sea and is the spur in the heel of Italy’s boot. For the last 20 miles of our journey we snake along its coastline, where rocky limestone cliffs rise above the crystal-clear aqua sea. We arrive at our campsite and I can feel a smile rising.…we’ve come up trumps with this one. Situated in an Aleppo pine wood, where the only sounds are the forest birds chirruping and the waves swishing on the pebble beach, I am in heaven. There is also a fantastic restaurant overlooking the cove, a well-stocked shop, a small fruit and vegetable stall and free (all the showers in Sicily were token-ed and timed), hot, roomy showers. What more could a girl ask for…this is one of the campsites I will remember.

 

John doing some yoga, the campsite beach

Gargano is a popular beach destination for vacationing Italians but seems relatively unknown to other Europeans, except the Germans who seem to have travelled everywhere. The area has small resorts with lovely beaches, hilltop towns and seaside villages. Here, you will also find the UNESCO site Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo, the Umbra forest known for its ancient oak trees (500 years old) and an unspoilt national park. Over the next 3 days we cycle along the coastline into the nearby town of Vieste (no mean feat as the road rises above the cliffs), kayak around the little islands from our drop-dead gorgeous beach and generally unwind from the assault to the senses which was Sicily. The scenic small town Vieste sits on a white cliffed peninsula jutting into the sea. The old town is an atmospheric maze of steep staircases with washing dangling from the simple white houses and there are restaurants and small shops along every alleyway – just perfect for wandering.

 

The Gargano coastline, the town of Viesta, lunch with a view 

We slowly cycle around the edge of the town where there are stunning sea views and stop at a lovely little restaurant for lunch with a gorgeous view. John was also on a mission……to find a barber. It had been 10 weeks since his last haircut and he was beginning to look like a 1970s hippy. The barber spoke no English, but with a few gestures going on between them, John managed to come out looking a whole lot better than when he went in!

With so much still to see in this area we would have loved to stay for much longer, but with a ferry to catch, we must leave. The spur of the boot has left a lasting impression, a little piece of paradise, that sometime in the future I hope to return to. But for now, we are leaving Italy and make our way to catch the ferry in Ancona. There’s no stopping off to visit coastal towns and the journey goes smoothly, no hitches, no stress and before we know it, we are on our way to Croatia.

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Evening ferry from Ancona to Split

 

 

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