Vieste | The Gargano
Where the beaches have a soft silvery pink sand that sparkles under the golden sun. And the main beach is legendary - quite literally. Vieste sits on furthest tip of the peninsula making a great base for exploring the wonderfully diverse Gargano. Find a trove of destinations to visit and things to do.
The Big Guide to Vieste
If the Valle d’Itria is the most visited part of our region then the Gargano - which forms the spur of Italy’s boot - is the most overlooked. Rising up in the distance as you pass along the salt flats of Margherita di Savoia it feels very different to the rest of Puglia - albeit with similar accents of olive groves and azure waters...
Read about our road trip to Gargano here.
Vieste sits on the furthest tip of the Gargano peninsula making it the perfect base to explore one of the most scenic and the most overlooked parts of our region.
The Gargano is set against a dramatic coastline of white limestone cliffs, rock formations, coves and caves. It has exceptional, long sandy beaches, every bit as fine as Salento’s award-winning beaches, and in our experience superior to the Valle d’Itria’s best.
It is greener and more mountainous than the Valle d’Itria and the Salento, with extensive lush beech and oak forests and verdant olive groves. The Foresta Umbra, the last of an ancient prehistoric forest that once covered much of Central Europe, extends for almost 10, 500 hectares acr oss most of the north east side of the peninsula, surrounding Vico del Gargano, Vieste and Monte Sant’Angelo.
The Foresta Umbria sits within a larger National Park extending to some 121, 118 hectares.
Vieste’s two beaches, either side of the centro storico, are long stretches of soft white and golden sand. Both are within a 5 minute walk from the town centre.
And there are faraglioni; the limestone stacks steeped in legend. Perhaps the most famous of all in Puglia is Pizzomunno, giving its name to the beach where it sits.
Gargano is packed full of wonderful places to explore and exciting adventures to be had.
Our favourite ever experience in Puglia to date was eating at the Trabucco da Mimi, not because of the wonderful food, rather the stunning location and unique setting.
The Valle d’Itria may well be one of the most visited parts of our region. In part that is due to its proximity to two international airports and the “echo chamber” effect of being the most visited because it is the most recommended, and the most recommended because it is the most visited. But that doesn’t mean only the best of Puglia is only on offer in the Valle d’Itria. As much as it merits such recommendation you can’t beat the diversity of the Gargano.
We say who needs ordinary when you can have extraordinary.
A brief history
Legend has it that after Noah’s ark settled on Mount Ararat he and his wife - Vesta, her given name according to the Comte de Gabalis - journeyed to the shores of Gargano where he and his wife decided to see out their lives. Together they founded Vieste, named after her.
Greeks from Sparta begin to arrive in Puglia during the 8th century BC, settling first in Salento before moving move northwards. From this time the area is linked with the name “Apeneste”, meaning isolated refuge. Many Greeks spent long winters in the area isolated and away from their families.
A nostalgia for their families and their homeland led the Greeks to pray to “Estia”, their goddess of hearth and home. The cult of the goddess was widespread among the local population, such that even the Romans began to venerate her, hence the name Vieste.
Like most of our region Vieste was repeatedly fought over by the Byzantines, Normans, Lombards, Venetians and Saracens in the Middle Ages. While it prospered under Byzantine rule, the rise of barbarians from the north, and the incursions of the Saracens from the south, brought conflict.
During the eleventh century Vieste was ruled Norman; under their rule the the castle and cathedral were first built.
Conflict continued mainly due to Vieste’s strategic importance. Pirates often lay siege to the city. In 1554 the “greatest pirate warrior of all time” the corsair Dragut killed more than 5000 Viestani, beheading old men, women and children over the Chianca Amara (bitter stone). You can still see the Chianca Amara in Vieste’s old town, near the cathedral.
During the Risorgimento Vieste was once again the setting for bloody conflict. In 1861, filo borbonici loyal to the Bourbon king clashed with citizens committed to the cause of the unification of Italy.
Where to Eat
Al Trabucco da Mimì | our favourite experience in Puglia to date | read about it here | €€€-€€€€
La Viestana | pizzeria braceria | Via Santa Maria di Merino, 28 | try a paposcia Vieste the king of Vieste street food or pepata di cozze, peppered mussels, another local speciality | €
What To do
Centro Storico | Vieste’s old town is a complex knot of winding alleyways and staircases | look out for the Chianca Amara on Via Cimaglia next to the 11th century Romanesque Cathedral - the stone used for beheading during the Saracen invasion | walking around the outer walls provides the best views of Pizzomunno beach and the legendary faraglione | to reach the viewing platform take the stairs down sitting at the left hand side of the Norman castle entrance.
Foresta Umbra | Gargano National Park | full of trails to walk and hike in | nothing beats the smell the pine in the heat of the late afternoon.
Peschici | picture perfect with another beautiful old town and stunning beach to walk to.
Al Trabucco da Mimì | listed here as well as in the where to eat section simply because the beautiful setting made it one of the best experiences that we have had in Puglia, and not just because of the delicious food | book to make sure you get a table on the terrace.
Vico del Gargano | a small medieval mountain town officially recognised as one of i borghi piú belli d’Italia (the most beautiful towns in Italy).
The Foresta Umbra, Peschici and Viso del Gargano are all within within a 30–40 minute drive from Vieste.
Monte Sant’Angelo | take a day trip to see the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo | look back for stunning sea views on the way.
Mattinata | take a boat trip, the best way to explore Gargano’s coast | spot the trabucchi - wooden fishing platforms, a cross between grotesque spiders and steampunk oil rigs - and the limestone sea stacks rising up from the blue of the Adriatic | some boats stop for swimming.
Tremiti Islands | take the ferry from Vieste | 1.5 hours each way | visitors cannot take cars to the islands | “you won’t find this on Capri”.
When to visit
May to September. At the beginning of October the weather is still decent, but with the summer season over, Vieste (and Peschici) feel very different, with many bars and restaurants already closed.
Car | from Bari 175 km | circa 2h30 | via SS16 | see our Big Gargano Road Trip Guide for detailed instructions on which route to take.
Bus | Pugliairbus from Bari airport | circa 2h50 | 10€-€20 | SITA bus 744 from Foggia | circa 2h45 | 5€-7€.
Train | Foggia - San Severo - Vieste | Ferrovie del Gargano | circa 3h, subject to transfer time | 5€-15€.
Want some more?
Read about our road trip from Bari to Vieste | Gargano, including recommendations on the best route to drive and where to stop-off on the way. Look out for Europe's largest pink flamingo colony at the Saline Margherita di Savoia nature reserve en route.