We really fancied a weekend away, but wanted to avoid crowds or getting on a plane. We looked at the Trenitalia route map, picked Foggia in northern Puglia (2 hours 50 min from Rome on the Frecciargento), and booked a hotel in Monte Sant’Angelo, above Manfredonia. The Gargano coast and the Tremiti Islands are meant to be gorgeous, but we just wanted a relaxing weekend away. Maybe next time.
Local transport is pretty good. There’s buses with SITA, and Ferrovie del Gargano has local trains (most starting from San Severo) and buses. We exited the station at Foggia, and just across the piazza under the arcade is where the buses leave. San Giovanni Rotondo is nearby, for Padre Pio devotees, so there were plenty of pilgrims. Different bars sell tickets for the different bus lines. Best to check in advance, as there can be hours between buses. We got the bus to Manfredonia, as there were better connections to Monte Sant’Angelo from there than from Foggia. Getting off at the deserted Manfredonia train station seemed like a mistake, until we spotted the local tourist office there with the very friendly Peppino. He gave us maps, and better bus information, and sent us to Coppolarossa for lunch. About 5-10 min walk, Via dei Celestini, 13, Manfredonia. Lovely seafood pasta. We set off to find the bus stop, trundling our suitcases as the post-lunch silence descended on Manfredonia. We were soon slightly lost, despite Peppino’s map, but people were so nice and sent us the right way. We almost missed the Monte Sant’Angelo bus, as it was pulling out as we rounded the corner, but the bus fortunately stopped for us.
Monte Sant’Angelo is about 16 kilometres fom Manfredonia, up the mountain. It’s been a place of worship and pilgrimage since the early middle ages. According to legend, “…around the year 490 the Archangel Michael appeared several times to the Bishop of Sipontum near a cave, asking that the cave be dedicated to Christian worship and promising protection of the nearby town of Sipontum from pagan invaders. Those same years saw the development of a vast pilgrimage of believers, who walked the Via Francigena road between Monte Sant’Angelo and its French equivalent Mont Saint-Michel, on the English Channel. Even during the Crusades directed towards the Holy Lands, Monte Sant’Angelo was an indefeasible stopping point, so Crusaders could come to request divine support and blessings.” Today the town gets three million visitors a year.
Even for non-Catholics, it’s interesting historically. We had thought it would be a nice place to escape the heat for a few days, and it was very pleasant. Even cold, as the temperature dropped to 12C. We still had time by the pool. Too cold to go in though! So we ambled around town and enjoyed ourselves. More to follow.