A journey among nature, archeology and karstic phenomena in the Gargano –
During your holiday in Gargano, between the towns of the hinterland of the promontory, definitely worth a visit San Nicandro Garganico, a town located on top of some hills between the Lake Lesina and Varano Lake.
Of Longobard origins, San Nicandro Garganico preserves traces of its history especially in its ancient village, called Terravecchia, a destination that cannot miss in your itinerary. Between whitewashed houses, winding alleys, steep staircases and little squares, you will find the elegant Mother Church of Santa Maria del Borgo, the Castle of the feudal era, the Church of San Giorgio and the Church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, the imposing Palazzo Fioritto and the beautiful Loggia di San Giorgio, in arabesque architectural style.
The territory of San Nicandro Garganico however extends from the Adriatic Sea up to the highest hill thus enclosing a colorful set of landscapes and environments that reveal the nature strongly karstic of this area. The highest expression of this karstic nature is the Doline Pozzantina, just a few kilometers from the center of San Nicandro Garganico, considered to be the second doline largest in Europe, but also the numerous caves and caverns as Grotta Pian della Macina and the Grotta dell’Angelo.
Very appreciated by the lovers of the sea is even Torre Mileto, the seaside resort of San Nicandro Garganico, which each year attracts many tourists to the beautiful golden beach interrupted by cliffs and coves. The seaside resort owes its name to the tower which characterizes it, among the oldest and most impressive of all the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and which today houses the Visitor Center of the Gargano National Park.
San Nicandro Garganico is also known for the production of dried flowers ornamental, which constitute approximately 70% of national production and has become, especially in the 80’s, the largest exporter of dried flowers in Italy.
The many churches of San Nicandro testify a strong religious tradition as well as many events that take place in San Nicandro Garganico during the year, including the celebrations of Holy Week. If you visit the Gargano during the Easter holidays, you should definitely watch the Procession of the Mysteries of the Passion, which takes place at sunset of Holy Friday: is a unique ceremony in the whole of the Apulia, with the parade of Confraternities and the transport of the seven statues representing the principal moments of the Passion.
The archaeological and naturalistic park of Monte Devio is located on Mount Devio, also called Monte D’Elio, the complex of hills (at 264 meters above sea level) situated between the lakes of Lesina and Varano. Here some excavations have brought to light “Devia”, the ancient city of Slave origins surrounded by walls. About the city, which was abandoned by its inhabitants towards the end of the XIV century, probably because of the Saracen invasions, there remains only the church of Santa Maria of Devia, a jewel of the Apulian-Romanesque style, in which are preserved frescoes dating back between the XII and XIV centuries. The whole area is today an area of remarkable naturalistic and archaeological interest.
The Tower of Mileto is one of the largest and oldest observation towers of the Adriatic coast. The fortification, probably of Aragonese origin, was built for defensive purposes and is surrounded by a particularly charming landscape. Here, in fact, you can admire a luxuriant Mediterranean maquis that goes so far to the blue of the sea with a cliff rich of marine species and strewn with fresh water springs. Today the tower houses the Visitor Center Torre Mileto of Gargano National Park where you can find information about excursions and thematic itineraries by practicing in the territory.
The Doline Pozzantina, 650 meters long, 400 meters wide and 100 meters deep, represents one of the most spectacular karst area in the Gargano and is considered to be the second doline largest in Europe. If we add to this the rich vegetation present along its slopes, especially oaks and holm oaks, the result is a landscape of rare beauty. From San Nicandro Garganico is reached along the SP 48 toward San Marco in Lamis up to 13° km. Here, on your right you will find a small asphalted road that will bring you in front of the doline and where it starts a narrow mule track that will allow you to descend until the inside of the natural amphitheater.
The Grotta dell’Angelo is situated on the western slope of the Monte Delio at about 150 meters above sea level. It’s thus called because an ancient tradition puts it as one of the three places of worship in the Gargano of Archangel Michael (together to the Caves of Monte Sant’Angelo and Cagnano Varano). In fact, it is one of the few natural cavity of the Gargano where has been established the human presence since the prehistoric period. Inside, on the right wall, are visible graffiti similar to those found in other places of the Gargano (Grotta Paglicci in Rignano Garganico). Were also found artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages and tombs of the early middle ages. You can reach it through a road that starts from the village of Torre Mileto and through a small path which leads until the entrance of the cave.
The Grotta Piana della Macina, also called Cave “dei Tre Regni” (of the Three Kingdoms), has been defined the cave most fascinating of all the Gargano. It is situated in the locality of Piana della Macina, at about 200 meters of altitude, on top of Coppa del Mortaio, one of the high grounds that are located to the south of the Lesina lagoon. The cave is accessed with a well-chute of 15 meters of depth, between stalactites, stalagmites, columns and drapes to then arrive in a real casket of beauties between concretions of stalactites and stalagmites of different sizes, columns, formations in jellyfish, in organ pipes and the drapes. The cave is not accessible to all, to its entry in fact you will find a railing, but it is possible to carry out guided visits by contacting the Municipality of San Nicandro Garganico – Office of Public Education and Culture – tel. 0882 477111.
The Mother Church Santa Maria del Borgo, is improperly called the “Cathedral” even if it has never been episcopal residence. The church was built between 1573 and 1580, but has been damaged by the earthquake of 1688. For this, rebuilt in part, today presents different styles. In its inside you can admire statues of historical and artistic importance as well as beautiful altars of the Baroque Age.
The Church of San Giorgio in Terra Vecchia is the most ancient religious building of San Nicandro Garganico. The little church has a simple facade and linear with a stone portal and a cornice that ends with a beautiful bell gable. The church is the protagonist of an ancient legend according to which a time just behind the altar, there was a magical well of water, capable of fulfilling all the desires of those who were able to collect a bucket of water without dropping even a drop.
The Castle, is situated in the inhabited center of San Nicandro Garganico. Founded by the Normans, but flourishing starting from the XV century, after various changes, today it has an elegant eighteenth-century loggia flanked by a fortified tower that recalls the Arab architecture. According to the tradition, the castle would be connected to the Church of Santa Maria del Borgo through an underground tunnel. Currently the castle is privately owned by two families which authorize the visit.
The Palazzo Fioritto is one of the historic buildings the most fascinating of San Nicandro Garganico. Rich in history, art and culture, today hosts the important Historical Ethnographical Museum of Rural Culture, with its three thousand finds, and the municipal library entitled to Alfredo Petrucci, becoming a point of reference for lovers of cultural tourism.