We have warmed to Mr. Bobble Hat, after he and ‘boss’ managed to extricate my knickers from the washing machine, and decided to stay another night.
This morning Howard went for a run along the beach, whilst I got up at a leisurely pace. This part of the Adriatic coast should be beautiful, but it is sadly marred with litter all along the tide-line. Howard even spotted an intact life-jacket this morning – no doubt legacy from the boats of immigrants who continue to flood into Italy along the Sicilian coast from Africa. In a country that is struggling with it’s own economy, it is remarkable that they have any capacity to process the thousands landing on their shores every month.
After breakfast, we set off to explore the Gargano Promontary, a national park in the far north east of Puglia. First, we passed through Manfredonia, a pleasant enough fishing port, with a stunning circular castle looking out over the bay. We then continued on through Monte Sant’Angelo, a town of white washed houses clinging to the mountainside, and apparently famous for the appearance of St. Michael in AD 493, who left his footprint in a grotto. Needless to say, we didn’t go to visit said grotto!
Next we took the coastal road, which twisted and turned it’s way along the Adriatic northwards towards the town of Vieste. The sea was a gorgeous turquoise blue when the sun appeared, and the road was lined with fir trees. At one point we pulled over to admire the view, but were disappointed to see that locals had been throwing their rubbish down a ravine that led down to the sea. Clearly rubbish removal is an issue in Italy, and they seem not to have developed the strange habit that my husband ‘Stig’ and many of his fellow neighbours have, of visiting the dump at least once every weekend, to deal with excess rubbish. Perhaps these municipal dumps don’t exist in Italy, which is perhaps why the locals have to find their own solutions – but it made me sad to think that in such a beautiful place, people were showing little respect for the environment around them.
Our initial impressions of Vieste were underwhelming. As we approached, we passed two or three miles of holiday complexes and campsites – but all closed and all completely deserted. It was like a ghost town. Clearly in the summer months it must be thriving along this bit of the coast, but today, we had it to ourselves. But then, as we came into the town proper, we were pleasantly surprised. An attractive main road led to a seafront with a lighthouse to the left, and then on the right, the old part of the town, winding it’s way up a hill clinging to the white cliffs of the coast. After our statutory coffee, we went off to explore. It was gorgeous – steep little lanes, the streets seemingly made from marble slabs that were glistening from a recent shower (and quite slippy), a couple of handsome churches, one apparently Norman, and steep steps leading on to little squares and courtyards. We turned one corner past the church and came to the sea-wall – high up above the lashing waves below. Here, fishermen had constructed some sort of wooden platform, extending out from the wall, on which they stood with long lines cast out to sea. We looked it up later – they are called Trabuccos, pine wooden platforms unique to this part of Italy, usually built on rocks overlooking the sea, first used by the Phoenicians, and include wooden arms where fishermen put their nets. You learn something new every day!
We wandered back to the seafront, and for ten minutes or so, the light falling on the water was sublime, with the sky took on a pink colouration under the line of clouds, making it look almost like a watercolour.
By now, time was getting on, but as we drove out of town, I spied a mobile phone shop, so we stopped to purchase a local sim card for our mobile WiFi. We opted to drive back across the middle of the National Park, high up into the heavily wooded hills, known as the forest Umbra or shady forest. Here the trees were mainly deciduous – oak, larch, maple and ash, and there were clearly lots of walks way-marked. The views at the top were spectacular – looking out across the Adriatic to the heel of Italy in the distance. For the entire road through the forest, we only saw one other car – quite a contrast from the drive along the Amalfi Coat yesterday and the day before.
By the time we got back to the campsite, however, it was dark, and the last part of the drive with it’s frequent hairpins had been tedious. We vowed not too stay out so late in future, and to get set up for the night in the light. But no worries – we are now tucked up in Oscar, and waiting for my sim card to start working. So far, we have been very impressed with this part of Puglia. Although much less well known than Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, to us, it is all the better for not being mobbed with crowds of tourists. Hopefully the rest of Puglia will continue to impress.
But for now – yippee – my WiFi has just come online, so extra photos tonight!