A Grand Day Out (Guest Blog by Michael)

The mechanic is now not expected until Sunday, so we decided to hire a car for the day to explore the Gargano Peninsula. Vieste lies on the east coast of the mountainous peninsula and it’s not many years ago that there were no metalled roads connecting through to the bulk of Puglia. But our little red Lancia coped admirably with the switchback roads.
Our first destination was Foresta Umbra in the heart of the Gargano National Park. We purchased a map at the tiny visitors centre and took a 5km hike through beautiful beech forest.

An idyllic oasis in Foresta Umbra

A cool green oasis after the heat of the coast, with sunlight dappling the moss and lichen. At the small lake we watched carp, koi, catfish and turtles. Deeper into the forest we saw evidence of snuffling pigs or boar, and were surrounded by birdsong.

Very privileged to see a family of turtles in the Foresta Umbra

Back in the car we left the forest, descended to a river valley, and then climbed up a steep ridge on top of which perches the ancient pilgrim town of Monte Sant’ Angelo. There are beautiful views south to the Adriatic Golfa di Manfredonia (across which we sailed from Bari), but for reasons best known to itself the town chooses not to site its restaurants and bars to take advantage of these. So we made do with a town centre pub serving panini for a late lunch.

On our way in to visit the ancient Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo we were almost crushed by a stampede of Croatian pilgrims, but it turned out that they were late for mass, so we were unable to take any pictures of the hugely atmospheric cave church to which we descended.

The sanctuary was hewn out of rock and 20m below street level

More switchback roads took us down the coastal side of the ridge, bypassing Mattinata through impressive tunnels before winding our way back to Vieste along the coast. We stopped to photograph some of the caves and an impressive cliff arch which are the destination for the trip boats which leave from the marina here throughout the day. We arrived back on board in time to watch the sun set below the harbour wall.

A lovely coastal drive back to Vieste

Tomorrow I leave Nimrod to make my way onwards to Venice by train. The Casino Royale arrival by yacht will have to wait, but hopefully not too much longer for Jo & Liz. Huge thanks to them both for their unfailing good humour in the face of frustrating circumstances, and for a most memorable week on board.

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