Gargano is a land where nature is committed to creating strong contrasts. And in the area included in the territory of San Nicandro Garganico, this is even more evident. There are peaks that crown a landscape of woods, caves and crags. Pushing towards the sea, the dune cord that separates the lake of Lesina from the Adriatic, hosts one of the most intact and suggestive Mediterranean scrubland pieces of the whole coast.
Gargano, land of contrasts
Sea and lake with their colors ranging from gray steel to the most intense blue are a constant presence. Nature here is a continuous spectacle, but also the presence of man has left its mark in time. In the countries that are perched on the headlands and in the coastal towers that run in the most strategic points of the coast. Higher oaks, beeches, holly, junipers, oaks, where the foxes come out from behind the trunks, looking straight into your eyes fearlessly and defiantly.
It happened to us on Mount Devio which holds enchanting treasures, such as the church of Santa Maria, dating back to 1032 and an example of perfectly preserved Gargano Romanesque, and the remains of a fortified town, inhabited by a population of Slavic origin and completely destroyed in 1245. But the area was frequented by men even earlier, as evidenced by the Bronze Age finds unearthed in the Cave of the Hawthorn.
And here we also came across the quaquaroni, as in dialect are called the large snails that, like all the nature around, excite and amaze with the lilac/purple livery of their foot and the smooth shell with a flattened shape, more like those of sea that those of earth.
What better way to discover the territory of the tastings of the specialties? Literally conquered by the consistency and flavor of the mozzarella of podolic cows milk, mozzarella and ricotta rifatta, a sort of slightly spicy ricotta made with sheep’s milk and black goat Gargano, from the muscisca, sun-dried meat, typical of pastoral civilization of transhumance, from the pupurat, a sort of gingerbread typical of San Nicandro Garganico which was once used to prepare for Carnival and which is now available all year round: an excellent sweet snack based on fig honey, cinnamon, orange, vanilla, almonds and chocolate.
Moving along the coast is Torre Mileto, one of the best preserved coastal towers in the Gargano and the only one that can be visited.
Before visiting the defense tower overlooking the Tremiti, which from here are very close, being this point of the sea the closest place to the islands of the whole Gargano, we go on patrol up to the Grotta dell’Angelo, one of the three places of worship of the Archangel Michael throughout the Gargano along with those of Cagnano Varano and Monte Sant’Angelo.
The cave, already frequented in prehistoric times, opens up against a steep ridge of calcareous formation and still has some graffiti visible. The view from the top is breathtaking despite mist and drizzle do not allow a clear view to the sea.
The rain did not stop our visit to the archaeological site under Torre Mileto, which reveals only the layer of the medieval walls that cover those dating back to the Neolithic. Off the tower, the sea floor hides the wreck of a Marsiliana ship, the Poma Santa Maria, sunk in 1607 with a load of smuggled guns, three of which were recovered in 1975 and kept on a tower terrace.
The adventure continues with the descent into the bowels of the earth in the Grotta di Piana della Macina, among stalactites and stalagmites that shine so brightly lit by the lights of our helmets to seem covered with golden glitter.
The day ends with a walk to the Dolina Pozzatina, the largest event of karst in Puglia and the second largest in Europe: a mirror of water that glimpses at the bottom of deep walls covered with oaks and oaks.
(End of the first part)