As you travel along the Adriatic coast in Italy towards Puglia you crane your neck to take in every detail of the fascinating landscape. The Adriatic sea turns turquoise and emerald green and is studded with shades of deep blue from the shadows of the little white clouds dancing along above it.
Mediterranean pine trees and big fat Cactus plants jostle together along the road, fields of gold that have yielded their harvest stretch into the distance and join smaller fields of artichokes and potatoes. All the while on the horizon is the sea giving a sense of freedom and calm to the land that is Puglia.
As you turn off the motorway and enter the spur of Italy's boot you feel a sense of entering a magic kingdom.
This is Gargano, one of Italy's hidden gems, a land suspended in time, where the past and the present mingle constantly trying to decide who is in charge.
The road winds round Gargano like a belt trying to contain the vast expanse of the Umbra Forest and give definition to the beautiful coastline. The forest is a National Park and home to many creatures including badgers, woodpeckers, deer, wild boar, Sparrow hawks.
The coastline is so beautiful that you will want to find a layby and stop to admire the sandy coves and stunning rock formations, the turquoise waters of the bays and the clusters of white flat topped houses clinging to the hill sides.
A dog might appear through a gap in a hedge and look at your car letting you know you must wait for a flock of sheep to pass across the road and up the hill for the night. A cow might be walking along the side of the road with her calf tucked underneath trying to keep up and merrily feeding on its' mother's milk.
All the while you will be aware of olive groves stretching onwards to the sea, silver in the moonlight and emerald in the day. Many of the beautiful olive trees have trunks that tell the story of centuries and the hands that have touched them, the lovers that have kissed there.
An ideal place to stay to explore this wild yet friendly region is B&B Villa Simone.
It only opened this Summer and embodies all that is good about Gargano and Puglia.
Family run and friendly. A feeling of home but of freedom of the past and of the future. White and clean and simple. A stunning view of the olive groves and the sparkling sea. A calm oasis of a garden with a swimming pool to relax and meditate. Gargano will induce a sense of calm and peace and family values. There is a slower pace of life here where you can breathe deeply, think clearly, fill your senses with wonder, feel the healing power of nature on your mind, body and soul and savour the company of family and friends.
Enzo from Villa Simone can arrange excursions and recommend wonderful places to eat.
One of these is Medioevo, a restaurant in Monte Sant'Angelo.
Once you can tear yourself away from the incredible breath taking view from Monte Sant' Angelo you can explore the little streets and look for the Restaurant Medioevo.
The proprietor Pasquale, has the charm of the men of the south of Italy. He has been running his restaurant for twenty two years and will make it clear he only wants to serve you the best. He is proud of his restaurant, his home, his lovely wife and young family. He is convinced that the stability of the world lies in happy families.
The menu has all the traditional Pugliese dishes including orecchiette, Pancotto, lamb, grilled Caciotto cheese and fried courgette flowers. Everything about this restaurant is wonderful, the food is delicious and the atmosphere friendly and warm. Like Enzo and his father from the Villa Simone, Pasquale loves Gargano and treats visitors like old friends, taking time to share his passion for his cooking, his home and his family.
The drive back down from Monte Sant' Angelo takes you through stunning scenery, steep sided hills, olive groves and vineyards. In front of you the coast of southern Italy sweeps round across the bay to Bari. The light is clear and the colours are beautiful shades of green and silver, blue and turquoise. The sunset is all warm pinks and oranges, then the moon appears and the sky turns dark blue. Lights appear on the sea and all along the coast like a golden chain.
|The swimming pool at Villa Simone has lovely views across to the sea|
|A Saracen tower near Peschici|
|Sunshine and showers in Vieste|
|The beach at Mattinata|
|Engraved on the steps of Pasquale's restaurant you will find, a key for hospitality and a pair of scissors to ward off malicious gossip.|
|One of the many breath taking views from Monte Sant'Angelo|