The next day we left the hotel by the way we had arrived but on leaving the section of main road headed off uphill, away from the sea.
“An initial climb brings you to a high point with wide views and then down along a stony, woodland track to the base of the next valley. Another climb brings you out to a high point before heading inland. You follow farm track and a short climb on road before picking up a gravel track that gently descends to your final destination with stunning panoramic views across the valley to the sea.”
At the ‘base of the next valley’ we came almost face-to-face with a family of wild boars. We knew we just could not pass through the area as they were hidden from us for the most part and making a lot of noise. In order to contact Matteo we had to retrace our steps to the ‘high point with wide views’ and wait for him to ‘rescue us’. This he did efficiently and quickly and offered to walk through the wild boars area with us. We declined his offer with the excuse that we had already lost quite a bit of time and could he put us back on the track a little further along the route.
The Turkish Oak
Matteo dropped us off on the track (just by a monumental Turkish Oak tree: read more about this species here) that leads over several kilometres to the very remote Agriturismo farm Masseria Sgarrazza at San Salvatore where we were to spend that night.
Arriving at the Masseria Sgarrazza
This amazing place – it was like stepping back in time – has existed as a farm here since 1820. The name comes from the local dialect word ‘sgarra’ meaning split or crevasse, because of the way that the sea splits the horizon where it joins the land. I think the way of life has changed little here; but as we dined that evening we could hear the telly. Access to water sources is a problem throughout the Gargano due to the quick draining cretaceous limestone that makes up the area. Here at San Salvatore water is delivered by truck to a huge water store.
The olive oil served at dinner was all produced here and they make the wine served themselves (but they don’t own any vines). The delicious Caciocavallo cheese is a speciality of the farm and is produced from the limited supply of milk from their Podolico cows.
Cheese maturing everywhere
Guests (just us) are accommodated in converted old stables and the arrangements were primitive to say the least! The original farmhouse (where the farmer and family ate, cooked and lived) is now just the dining room of the much expanded house.
The Farm and Threshing Floor
The large stone circle in the middle of the farmyard is an aia (threshing floor). There was once a little grain production and when this had been cut it was brought to the threshing floor where horses were led round in circles separating the grain from the straw with their hooves. Then it was manually tossed in the air so that lighter straw would be blown away and the grain remained on the threshing floor. At 254 sq m it is one of the biggest and best preserved in the Gargano. Another aia can be seen in the Pagliaio photo in the previous post.
The Masseria Sgarrazza – miles from anywhere!
A short detour from the next day’s route took us to the 2,500 year old necropolis of San Salvatore. I think we thought we had seen sufficient tombs and necropolises on our ATG walk last year (Etruscan Lanes to Orvieto) but it seemed not and we added a further 2.5km to the day’s walking. Matteo worked this excursion out himself and he writes in the notes :
“The necropolis was built by the Daunian Civilization between the sixth and fourth centuries BC. During the 1950s it was stripped by grave robbers; but archaeologists managed to save some finds (eg small pots, tools, funeral ornaments). These are now kept in the Archaeological Museum in the Castle at Manfredonia. It seems, though, that the Daunian inhabitants of this area were less evolved than at otehr Daunian centres (eg Siponto/Manfredonia and Ascoli Satriano). Nowadays, you can only see the square stones cut to form tombs … but to visit a 2500 year old cemetery remains a unique experience … don’t you think?”
The Site (hard to capture the look of the place)
Tombs and Graves
After the detour the route is described thus :
“A gravel track descends gently through the valley with wonderful panoramic views across to Vieste (our final destination) passing farms along the way. Then a rolling ridge track with splendid views carries you down to sea level, and the walk is completed along the long beach or seafront of the town.”
So, lots of ups and downs, super sea and town views and finally arriving at the seaside and straight into the first beach cafe for a pizza lunch. Then it was just a few more kilometres and a climb up into the town to the Palace Hotel very conveniently situated and handy for town, old town and harbour.
The Palace Hotel, Vieste
That evening we went with Matteo’s suggestion to eat at Taverna Al Cantinone in the Old Town. The Route Booklet says :
“Fresh and tasty local food. Traditional dishes from the Gargano revisited with a bit of fantasy. Good value for money.”
What it doesn’t tell you about is the lovely homely atmosphere and decor and the friendly, helpful and charming owners; a chef and his Spanish partner who serves at front of house. In fact, we ate there both evenings.
On the seven night ATG walking holidays there is always a free day so this meant we spent two nights at Vieste. On our free day we’d expected to take a boat trip to visit caves and spend a few hours with our reading at the Palace Hotel private beach. But the day dawned cloudy and windy with rain threatening so at breakfast a quick decision was made, the receptionist consulted for timetables and we took the local bus along the coast road to nearby Peschici. It’s another characterful old town with a castle (due to rain we visited the grisly Museum of Torture! – torture in itself!!), church of Sant’Ella (with Bauhaus style paintings of the Stations of the Cross), bell towers, town walls, narrow streets and plenty of craft and souvenir shops.
Bell Tower at Sant’Ella
Stations of the Cross
Typical souvenirs are wooden Pinocchio-style puppets and these dolls :
and models of trabucchi :
Trabucchi are wooden structures submerged in the sea. They are an ancient form of fishing technique consisting of large platforms anchored to the rocks and long wooden poles, ropes and pulleys. These days they are no longer used, except as a hobby, but they strongly symbolise the tradition and culture that was once fundamental to the economy of Vieste and the immediate region.
A trabuccho at Vieste
By early afternoon we were back in Vieste where the sun was beginning to come out so we walked round the old town looking for the trabuccho, the Pizzomunno stack and visiting the Cathedral.
Il Faraglione ‘Pizzomunno’
This is a magnificent example of a calcareous monolith that stands 25m high next to the cliff side on the Castle Beach. It has become a symbol of Vieste. The rock’s name is taken from the legend associated with it. Read the story here.
The Old Town of Vieste
And so, after a week of walking the paths of Gargano our trip was soon at an end. On the final evening we met again with Matteo to give our feedback and the next morning our taxi driver, Giancarlo, picked us up to whizz us along the autostrada to Bari Airport in his comfortable air conditioned Audi limousine, telling us proudly on the way how his grandfather began the family taxi business with a horse and cart.
What an adventure and what an achievement!
Reading both parts there seem to be an awful lot of “accents”. I am awed by your fitness! What a trip to remember.
Yes, indeed, Fran, rather a lot of ascents (and accompanying descents). I don’t feel that I’m very fit at all – but I guess I must be reasonably so.