43km (27 miles) NE of Foggia, 119km (74 miles) NW of Bari, 217km (135 miles) NE of Naples
If you approach Gargano from the south, your first stop, perhaps at lunchtime, will be Manfredonia, a small port known for its castle. It was named for Manfred, illegitimate son of Frederick II. In the heyday of the Crusades, this was a bustling port, with knights and pilgrims leaving for the Levant. Much later, the town was noted in World War I documents as the place where the first blow of the conflict was launched -- the Austrians bombed the rail station in 1915. Manfredonia is on a rail route from Foggia.
After arriving in town, turn right and go along Viale Aldo Moro to Piazza Marconi. Across the square, Corso Manfredi leads to the Manfredonia Castello, built for Manfred and later enlarged by the Angevins. Other bastions were constructed in 1607 by the Spanish, who feared an invasion from Turkey. Regrettably, their fortifications didn't do the job: The Turks arrived in 1620 and destroyed a lot of Manfredonia, leaving only some of its former walls standing. Today the castle is home to the National Museum of Manfredonia (Museo Nazionale di Manfredonia; Via Castello Svevo; tel. 0884-587838), open daily (except the first and fourth Mon of each month) from 8:30am to 7pm. It charges 2.50€ ($3.65) for admission. The archaeological remnants and finds include a collection of Stone Age objects from area villages. The most striking of these are the Daunian steles, stone slabs decorated like human torsos and topped with stone heads, the legacy of the Daunian civilization that settled in the region around the 9th century B.C.
Three kilometers (2 miles) outside town is Santa Maria di Siponto, a church in a setting of pine woods that once was the site of the ancient city of Siponto, abandoned after being ravaged by an earthquake and a plague. Dating from the 11th century, the church is in the Romanesque style, showing both Tuscan and Arabic influences.
60km (37 miles) NE of Foggia, 135km (84 miles) NW of Bari, 233km (144 miles) NE of Naples
The interior's principal town, Monte Sant'Angelo, 16km (10 miles) north of Manfredonia in the great Umbra Forest, is a good place to start your drive. From here you can venture into a landscape of limes, laurels, and towering yews populated with foxes and gazelles. Narrow passages, streets that are virtually stairways, and little houses washed a gleaming white characterize the town.
The site of Monte Sant'Angelo, standing on a spur, commands panoramic views of the surrounding terrain. Before you leave town, you might want to visit the Sanctuary of San Michele (Santuario di San Michele), Via Reale Basilica (tel. 0884-561150), built in the Romanesque-Gothic style. The campanile is octagonal, dating from the last years of the 13th century. The sanctuary commemorates the legend of St. Michael, who's said to have left his red cloak after he appeared to some shepherds in a grotto in 490. You can also visit the grotto -- to enter from the church, go through some bronze doors, made in Constantinople in the 11th century. Crusaders stopped here to worship before going to the Holy Land. The sanctuary is open daily from 7:30am to 12:30pm and 2:30 to 5pm (7am-8pm in summer). It charges no admission; however, donations are appreciated.
Opposite the campanile is the Tomb of Rotharis (Tomba di Rotari), which is said to hold the bones of Rotharis, the king of the Lombards, although it's a baptistery dating from as early as the 12th century.
Continuing past the sanctuary, you'll find the semi-restored ruins of the Norman Swabian Aragonese Castle (Castello Normanno Aragonese Svevo), Piazzale Ferri, with a second entrance on the Corso Manfredi (tel. 0884-587838). It's open daily from 8:30am to 7:30pm and charges 2.50€ ($3.65) for admission. Its Torre dei Giganti was built in 837, although most of the castle dates from later in the Middle Ages. From its ramparts is one of the most sweeping views in the Gargano.
You can also visit the Tancredi Museum (Museo Tancredi), Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi (tel. 0884-562098), exhibiting artifacts used by local farmers and vintners in their trades. Open April to October Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm and 2:30 to 7pm; off season Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm and 2:30 to 6pm. Admission is 1.50€ ($2.20).
As you wander, look for local shops selling wrought-iron goods, which are among the finest in Italy. Ironwork has a long tradition here, with sons following in their fathers' footsteps. The locals also make wooden furniture and utensils. Most shops are located in an area called Juno, in the center of town.
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