The drive from San Marino to the Gargona Peninsula was long, but gorgeous! On one side of the highway it was layers of hills covered in vineyards and farmland and the other was a view of the Adriatic Sea. We wanted to break up the five and a half hour drive, so we stopped in Vallevo for lunch on a trabacco. Trabaccos are fishing platforms that have mostly been turned into seafood restaurants. Unfortunately, we were a little early in the season as they will open in mid April.
Driving into the region of Puglia, there were olive groves everywhere! Puglia is Italy's number one producer of olive oil and has over 60 million trees. They also have the oldest olive tree dating back 3000 years.
We stayed in Vieste, which is said to be founded by Noah. After the flood, he left the Ark, came to this region, fell in love with a woman named Vieste, and named the town after her.
The San Francesco church and convent, which is placed next to the sea, dates back to 1438.
Behind the church was this beautiful view point.
The Medieval old town is small with winding narrow streets.
This is a very common mode of transportation, the Piaggio Ape trike. Cheap on gas, you can haul things around, and more importantly they fit down the narrow streets of the old cities.
Beside the church there was a real working trabacco and of course I had to ask to visit.
They were so welcoming! It was a lot of google translate and gestures as they enlisted me to place the net for seppia. After we set the net, that night the seppia will swim (hopefully) towards light, and into the net. They told us to come back at 4am for the catch. Nothing goes to waste because they feed the stray kitties the odds and ends that get caught up in the net.
This is Michele Santoro, a local fisherman.
This is the local cheese, Caciocavallo. I wanted to purchase some to take home from the local cheese monger. The store owner didn't speak any English, but after I looked around his shop, he led me to this room, turned on the light and left me there in what was his ageing room! Caciocavallo is made with sheep or cow's milk, aged for 15 days to 2 years. If I had to compare it to another cheese it tasted as if mozzarella and povolone had a baby. Another local creation, connected to the cheese, is Paposce. It is light freshly baked bread with tomatoes, melted caciocavello, and salami. It is delicious and comforting with the melted salty cheese, spiciness of the salami and the bread soaking up the warm, sweet tomatoes.
We purchased a half round of cheese. The shape is interesting, as you can see. It is formed so that it can be suspended by rope as it ages. The same rope is also handy for carrying the cheese as we saw more than one local happily walking with a cheese dangling at their side! Vaccuum sealed it is expected to last six months in the refrigerator.
We stayed at the Quintessenza Charme next to the gate to the old town. It had a lovely terrace with extraordinary views of the harbor, light house, and the military castle above our hotel.
The sunsets were breathtaking from our room and balcony! The hotel was nice but had no elevator so it was not easy lugging our bags up two flights of steep stairs.
When we left we drove south along the coast. We drove most of the peninsula and this turned out to be the more stunning side! The rock formations and arches were beautiful. The two lane road rose and fell along the coast with cliffs straight to the sea. It reminded us of our drive along the Amalfi coast without anywhere near as many cars, scooters, and buses.
There were several 16th century guard towers along the coast where defenders could view up and down the Adriatic to watch for Turkish attackers. Vieste was defending the Kingdom of Naples. When an enemy ship was spotted cannon balls were fired to alert the Kingdom. You can visit the outside of most of them and as you would expect they have stunning vistas!
This was behind the tower and the roped off area, whoops! Great tower to visit and breath in the fresh air for a moment.
According to the locals the area gets mobbed with Italian tourist in July and August, so we were lucky to see the real working city. The Gargano coast and it's raw beauty exceeded our expectations! I would highly recommend visiting this area in the off season or the shoulder months.