Puglia Evo World – Tutta la Puglia dell’Olio in un click 

P.D.O. Dauno Gargano: amongst forests, picturesque coves, and UNESCO sites

Discovering the territory of Extra Virgin Olive Oil P.D.O. Dauno Gargano, from the Daunian Forest to the crystal-clear sea along the cliffs, from Monte Sant’Angelo to the coastal lakes.

The mountainous promontory sandwiched between the sea and the Tavoliere, with its unique landscapes and morphological features, imparts its characteristics to Extra Virgin Olive Oil P.D.O. Dauno Gargano. The ‘spur’ of Puglia is a ‘island’ of limestone rock, designated as a national park in the early 1990s, offering a great variety of panoramas and ecosystems, ranging from the forests of the Umbra Forest to the wetlands of the northern coast, from the large beaches of fine sand to picturesque coves wedged between steep cliffs, all the way to the olive tree plantations of Extra Virgin Olive Oil P.D.O. Dauno Gargano, which almost touch the sea.

To explore Gargano, we suggest starting from the southern coast, where a stop at the Church of Santa Maria di Siponto is worthwhile, one of the most important examples of Apulian Romanesque architecture dating back to the 11th century. Next to the church stands the architectural sculpture made of metal mesh, created in 2016 by artist Edoardo Tresoldi, which reconstructs and reinterprets the three-dimensionality of the ancient paleochristian basilica, of which only the foundations remain. After a swim at the nearby Siponto beach, built on an ancient settlement of Daunian origin, make a stop in Manfredonia, a coastal town founded by King Manfredi in the mid-13th century, and visit the National Archaeological Museum in the Castle, which boasts a collection of 1,500 Daunian steles found in the fields of Siponto.

Continuing along the coast, you will cross gentle slopes cultivated with olive trees producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil P.D.O. Dauno Gargano, and you will reach Mattinata, famous for its particularly favorable climatic conditions, its beaches with small white pebbles, and the marine caves that can be visited by boat. From Mattinata, several naturalistic excursions start along trails such as the Mergoli-Vignanotica, renamed the Path of Love.

From Mattinata, head towards the Gargano hinterland, climbing towards Monte Sant’Angelo, a pilgrimage destination since medieval times. After the archangel Michael’s apparition in a cave, in the 7th century, the Lombards transformed it into a sanctuary. Located along one of the branches of the Via Francigena, Monte Sant’Angelo became one of the major pilgrimage centers in Europe dedicated to the worship of the warrior archangel. The current Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel stands on a rocky spur above the ancient cave and offers a suggestive view over the Gulf of Manfredonia. It owes its current form to Charles of Anjou and is one of the four UNESCO heritage sites in Puglia.

A silvery crown of olive trees guides tourists through Gargano. These cultivations, now considered heroic as they often thrive on steep slopes, are believed to be the first olive groves in the Foggia region. Fratepietro, in his work ‘L’olivo in Capitanata’ from 1932, reconstructs the path of olive expansion that began many centuries ago in areas—now favored by national and international tourism—including Rignano Garganico, Vieste, Ischitella, the city of Santo Pio, also known as San Giovanni Rotondo, and the UNESCO site Monte Sant’Angelo. From Gargano, the olive gradually spread first to some municipalities of the Subappenino Dauno and then to the plains. The major expansion occurred in the 17th century, with already several thousand hectares, almost all in specialized crops, Fratepietro continues. ‘The trade of products, especially by sea, was very intense. By the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, olive cultivation rapidly spread to various areas of Daunia. Every dish in Foggia’s cuisine is characterized by extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality.

In Puglia, there is the quintessential town of love: Vico del Gargano, whose patron saint is San Valentino. In mid-February, it is celebrated with a grand religious and folk festival, adorned with citrus decorations that embellish the main church and the charming medieval alleys, featuring processions, fireworks, and tastings of typical dishes.

Yet, in the ancient village, Vico del Gargano also houses the Trappeto Maratea Museum, located in a 14th-century olive mill. Visiting this municipal museum means immersing oneself in the local culture, which had its foundations in olive groves, olives, and oil, along with the wheat of Foggia (still considered the granary of Italy today) and hard wheat bread. This is crucial to understanding the local culture, which found in olive cultivation, and thus in the environment of the oil mill (trappeto), one of the cornerstones of its sustenance.

The oil mill has preserved and displays two areas for visitors. In one, there are vertical wooden presses for olive pressing, the ancient millstone, and other tools used for oil production and fieldwork. In the other, the oil tank, warehouse, and stable have been preserved: the machines were powered by the strength of animals, usually a donkey. There is also the monastic kitchen that prepared humble meals for those who lived and worked in the mill.