The best base on the Gargano peninsula is Vieste, jutting out into the Adriatic on two promontories. Fifty years ago there wasn’t even a proper road here, but today Vieste, with its excellent beaches, is the holiday capital of Gargano, and the streets and sands are packed in August. Despite the crowds, it is a lively and inviting town, with an interesting historic core and, in summer at least, a fairly lively nightlife.
The old town sits on the easternmost of the two promontories, at the tip of which stands the Chiesa di San Francesco, once a thriving monastery, and a trabucco – used by fishermen to catch mullet. Probably Phoenician in origin, these cantilevered arrangements of wooden beams, winches and ropes are found on the rocky Gargano coast, and further north around Vasto in Abruzzo.
From the church, climb up Via Mafrolla, walking through the old town to Piazza Seggio. Straight ahead, Via Duomo is the site of the so-called Chianca Amara, the “bitter stone”, where five thousand local people were beheaded when the Turks sacked the town in 1554. Further down, past the stone, the Cattedrale, eleventh century in origin but tampered with in the nineteenth, provides a cool retreat from the fierce glare of the sun in the whitewashed streets.