Wandering Vico del Gargano

Hope you’re enjoying our Gargano week! It’s far from over… after telling you about awesome Monte Sant’Angelo and our day learning about organic farming, we would like to introduce you to beautiful Vico del Gargano, one of the most beautiful hilltop villages we’ve ever seen. 

Where is Vico del Gargano?

Have you heard of Gargano? It may well be one of Italy’s least-known places; right at the top of Apulia, Gargano is the round peninsula reminiscent of a spur. Vico del Gargano is one of the prettiest villages that can be found in the area; a place of twisty, narrow roads and silver houses, tightly packed on top of a hill. From afar, the village itself is a spellbinding sight.

Vico Del Gargano panorama
Another beautiful view of Vico

The nature around Vico is simply stunning; the village is sandwiched between the forested hills of the Gargano National Park and the rocky coast, with lots of sea caves. So, whether you’re a rock-climber, a hiker or a beach bum, you’ll be sure to find some activity of your liking around Vico del Gargano.

What is there to see in Vico del Gargano?

The village itself is not just a base for an activity-filled holiday in the surrounding nature. It is worth exploring for a day or two. Vico del Gargano was defined by a leading Canadian newspaper as ‘one of the last corners of unspoiled Italy’.

Vico del Gargano with Washing
A street in the historical centre of Vico del Gargano

You won’t find tacky souvenir shops and overpriced grocery stores selling ‘local’ specialties for tourists. When I asked for taralli (ring-shaped biscuits), a local snack, I wasn’t given a neat little package – the seller shovelled them out of a 10 kg plastic bag. You’ll find older men sitting on plastic chairs at the roadside or playing cards, and farmers descend every day to the local market with their freshest produce.

Here are some Vico del Gargano sights:

1) Chiesa di Santa Maria La Pura

Vico del Gargano Santa Maria Pura
The church, with caretaker just visible on a step

A tiny church just outside of the city walls, built near a stream. When we visited, no one else was there, save a lone caretaker. The church was in semi-darkness. You could barely see a fountain below, hidden by the leafy treetops. It was a magical, mysterious place; I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but there was definitely something. The name ‘pura’, meaning ‘pure’, is in reference to the ancient custom of burying children and virgins in the grounds.

2) The stunning view over Vico

Vico Del Gargano view far
Getting to Pino’s secret spot

Our host Pino recommended this spot, and let me tell you, it was amazing. Directions are simple; walk out of town following directions for ‘Ischitella’ for a couple of kilometers until you find a sign marked ‘PKK’, and – as Pino put it – you’ll see the marvel. What do you think?

3) Museo Trappeto Maratea

We didn’t actually get to visit this, as it was closed for renovation. Gargano is famed for its delicious olive oil, and this museum is an ancient olive press and a cafรฉ-restaurant.

4) Vicolo del Bacio

Vico del Gargano with arch
This isn’t it, Vicolo del Bacio is much darker and narrower

Did you know Vico del Gargano is also known as the ‘city of love’? The patron saint is none other than St Valentine, and one of the village’s main sights is Vicolo del Bacio, or Kiss Alleyway, a tiny alley no wider than 50 cm. Why ‘kiss’? Because it’s so narrow that lovers can’t help but touching one another as they go through it, and then…

5) World War II Caves

This is an apocryphal sight, recommended to us by Turino, a big-eared elderly man who spoke a dialect so thick I could barely understand him. A couple of switchbacks up from Santa Maria la Pura, behind a gate and mountains of junk, there are some tunnels cut into the karstic rock. These tunnels joined bigger caves into the mountains, where locals used to hide during World War II.

The best thing about Vico is getting lost, wandering around the tiny cobbled streets past rows of washing, dozing cats and children chasing a football. Just walk around, following your instinct; I can promise you’ll stumble onto some great finds.

Vico del Gargano Round Square
Great finds indeed, like this lovely little square

What is there to eat?

Vico del Gargano is also the home of the paposcia, a once-humble peasant dish that rivals pizza in popularity. Paposcia is a hollow rugby-ball shaped roll made of pizza dough that is split open and eaten stuffed with cheese, cured meats, sausages or veggies.

It has its origins in the old custom of baking giant loaves of bread. To check that the oven temperature was right, people used to place a small amount of dough into the oven. If it inflated like a balloon, the oven was good to go.

Vico del Gargano Steps
I’m sure there’s a paposcia place at the end of this alleyway

Pretty much every bakery and pizzeria offers paposce. We loved the ‘salsiccia and salicornia‘ filling, local sausage with samphire. An old man boasted that salicornia has medicinal properties; if I ate it every day for a month, I would have ‘radiant skin and no more tummy’. We’ll see.

Where to stay in Vico del Gargano?

Where? Pizzicato, of course!

How to get there?

This is really strange coming from me, a hard-core public transport aficionado. The best way to travel to Vico del Gargano is by car. There are buses and trains in neighbouring Peschici, but without a car you’d be pretty much stuck. Not that it’s a bad thing, but what if I told you that you’d be missing cave churches, rocky coves and ancient forests?

Vico del Gargano Street with Ape
Or you can always get to Vico by Ape car!

Linked to Sunday Traveler




49 thoughts on “Wandering Vico del Gargano”

  1. Great shots! Thanks for taking me on this lovely journey to Vico del Gargano. From the photos it reminds me of a mixture of Croatia and Greece! Mmm… that Paposcia sounds absolutely mouthwatering, too!

  2. I definitely want to try some paposcia. ๐Ÿ™‚ Looks like a very nice place. Like you I’m a big fan of public transport. So much so, that I don’t have –nor will I ever again have– a car. The downside of course is getting to these kinds of places.

    • Thanks Bob! Totally agree with you about the car. We don’t have one either, and just borrow or rent one when we need to.

  3. Great post, I love reading posts like this, gives me so much inspiration to head to places I haven’t been before! Especially ones where I can explore winding back streets.

  4. I absolutely love that although Italy is one of the most visited countries in Europe it’s still possible to discover little gems like this hidden from the crowds. Love the narrow winding streets, your pictures are beautiful!

  5. These photographs conjured in me a deep desire to spend time in the South of Italy. I REGRET booking my flight for norther Europe this summer.

    I want to run through those streets, I want to give a kiss in the Vicolo del Bacio and I want delicious olive oil.

    Why can’t every month be August?

    Angie from reasons to dress, fashion, real mom street style & life as a North American mom in Italy.

  6. Somehow this is exactly how I imagine a typical Italian village. I’ve not been to Italy many times (mostly up north in de Dolomites or in cities) but from books, people’s stories and also my own imagination this would be a picture perfect one ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. What a cute little place! I love discovering villages like Vico del Gargano. And did you mention cave churches and rocky coves?! Paposce sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Anyone should discover Vico and its beauties. There are also San Menaio and Calenella with beautiful beaches near the town. And don’t forget to ask someone what is the “mupia” (la mupia)!

  9. The village looks lovely I’ve been a few times in Italy but always in some big busy cities and never got the chance to explore the country side. Your post reminded me how beautiful Italy is and how I need to go back and see more

  10. I had never heard of Gargano prior to reading this post but I certainly have now and would love to explore this part of Italy whenever we head there in December this year! There are so many quaint little towns and villages scattered around Italy and it’s nice to read about these hidden gems rather than always the mainstream locations.

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