We drove to Monte Sant'Angelo from Bari. A simple, comfortable and rather not too crowded road was conducive to a carefree journey. From afar, the Gargano peninsula slowly rose up in front of us. Clearly separated from the rest of the area, a different and independent geographical land. Even at the first glance, from a distance of several kilometers, you could see that Gargano was different. Different from everything around. From a completely flat terrain, it suddenly rises steeply and high. As if someone had grabbed the earth like soft dough in two hands and squeezed, sharply piling up the entire peninsula. It looks strange, different, intriguing.
Swallowing the next kilometers calmly, we watched how the strange, rocky dam rose in front of us, seeming to be bigger, more impressive and intriguing. We finally entered the peninsula. On the right, the waters of the Adriatic Sea, and more specifically the Manfredonian Bay, glistened blue, and on the left, a rapidly rising rocky slope. The road ran along a narrow strip of flat land that connected the waters of the sea with the rocky hill.
The scenery did not last long, however. After just a few kilometers, just behind Manfredonia, signposts and navigation ordered us to turn left onto the local road SP55 and immediately a sharp climb to Monte Sant'Angelo began.
Access to Monte Sant'Angelo via SP55
There are 3 km in a straight line from the foot of the hill to Monte Sant'Angelo. On the other hand, the road that leads there (SP 55) is almost 10 km of constant turns on steep and sharp turns. It's really steep uphill. We have to overcome about 850 m difference in height on such a short distance, so it must be sharp (the town is situated at an altitude of 856 m above sea level).
The reward for your climbing effort is the views. Amazing views of the Gulf of Manfredon, the coast of Italy and the Adriatic Sea. This is the main reason why you should decide to get to Monte Sant'Angelo by road SP55. Every meter of distance and hill traveled changes the perspective. We always have new images in front of our eyes and it's a pity to keep going. Unfortunately the driver MUST be firmly focused on the road and will not benefit from the views (unless there is nothing behind your back and you can slow down for a moment or even stop). I warn drivers not to look around !!! Local people like to cut corners and suddenly something falls out on us from the opposite direction. You have to react in a split second. There's no time. In this short stretch, we had probably three interventions when I had to immediately make room for some madman in front of me.
Passengers (or rather their eyes) have a feast for it. Unfortunately, there are few places on the road where you can safely stop to take a picture. Usually, if there was a small cove where it was safe to stop, it didn't have a good view. So if you want to take good pictures of this driveway, then react, especially when there is no other vehicle behind you and you can stop for a few moments. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to catch a moment where you could stop for a photo. There was always someone sitting on our backs pushing us. The only photo we managed to take in the direction of Manfredon Bay was taken in Monte Sant'Angelo itself and unfortunately it does not reflect the charms of the route.
Monte Sant'Angelo - sightseeing
There are two main reasons why people come to Mount St. Angelo (Monte Sant'Angelo). The first is the sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel, and the other is a cascading, white, compact building of the historic center of the town of exceptional beauty.
Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel
It is one of the most important centers of the cult of St. Michael the Archangel, operating here for over 1500 years. There is a grotto under the basilica, where Saint Michael was to appear to the farmer in AD 490. In the following years, there were several more apparitions, and during one of them St. Michał dedicated this place for the construction of the future Basilica. So it is the only place in the world dedicated to the hand of an angel, not a man.
The basilica itself is not large or overly ornamented, but it has something about it that makes us say: wow! It really is a place with something special (regardless of religious commitment). By the way, it is worth paying attention to the almost thousand-year-old entrance door to the basilica. Made of bronze, they show 24 biblical scenes.
It is an extremely important and unique place for the faithful of the Catholic Church. It has been a destination of numerous pilgrimages for 15 centuries.
Near the basilica (in fact between the basilica and the castle) you can see historic pilgrim houses. An interesting fact is that although all the pilgrim's houses are almost identical, they differed in one detail: the chimney. Each of them had a different, characteristic chimney. As history says, pilgrims coming to the town recognized their place of accommodation by the chimney.
Admission to the sanctuary is ticketed and in high season it is best to make reservations directly in advance on the site of the sanctuary.
The opening hours depend on the season and should be checked in advance on this page - [click].
- admission ticket: EUR 5 (regardless of the age of the visitor)
- audio guide: EUR 2
- paper guide: EUR 4.
Castle of Monte Sant'Angelo
The castle was probably built in 837. It has two towers, each built at different times. The oldest part of the castle is the so-called Tower of Giants (Torre dei Giganti), with a wall thickness of 3,7 meters (!!!) and an unusual pentagonal shape.
The castle had various functions throughout its history (including the one that castles had very often, i.e. prisons), but it also had a slightly less traditional purpose in its history.
In the XNUMXth century, Emperor Hohenstaufen Frederick II carried out a major renovation of the castle in order to provide adequate living conditions for his mistress, Bianca Lancia d'Agliano.
Bianca lived briefly (1210-1246), but eventually became the emperor's wife. The marriage took place in unusual circumstances, when Bianca was already on her deathbed. She was the last wife of Emperor Frederick II.
Today, the castle is inhabited only by the spirit of Bianca, popularly known as "Biancalancia", which becomes especially active in winter.
The ruins are only accessible to visitors from the outside.
Historic center of the town
When exploring the historic center of the town, it's best to use my favorite method: aimlessly wandering around.
Yes! Monte Sant'Angelo is best explored by simply walking where your eyes can go. The town is so small and compact that wandering around it slowly you will get everywhere and see everything you need to see in it. And you don't need any special point-by-point plan.
To make things easier, of course, I have prepared an appropriate overview map. It will definitely help you find key points, such as: the most convenient parking lot (on the map as P1), St. Michael (No. 1), the castle (No. 2) and the area of the historic center with cascading white buildings, which you have to walk through (I marked it on the map with a pink ellipse).
Strolling the streets of Monte Sant'Angelo, it is wise to look around and try the local sweets: "Ostie piene", that is full hosts.
This is nothing but local wafer-hosts filled with almonds, caramelized in honey and cinnamon. Legend has it that the idea of making them arose when one of the nuns used the host to extract almonds from honey that accidentally fell into it. The taste of this accidentally created delicacy was so appealed to us that Ostie piene are still produced today and have become a showcase of the town.
Useful GPS coordinates
Parking, next to the castle in Monte Sant'Angelo, GPS:
41.707286, 15.951098 - click and route
Sanctuary and Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, GPS:
41.707866, 15.954688 - click and route
Castle of Monte Sant'Angelo, GPS:
41.707462, 15.952419 - click and route
Accommodation in Monte Sant'Angelo
The location on the city map is marked with number 3.
Holiday home with one bedroom, living room and bathroom. Convenient location in the historic part of the town puts you in the heart of the local climate. To reach the basilica, it is enough to walk about 300 meters through the historical part.
The location on the city map is marked with number 4.
Triple room located next to the castle and in the immediate vicinity of the basilica. You can't sleep in a better place. The more that there is a large, comfortable parking lot next to it, about which I wrote in the content of the post. Everything at hand, in one place.
The location on the city map is marked with number 5.
Clean, comfortable and highly rated accommodation in a very convenient location. Access to the observation deck with a pleasant view and the possibility of unhindered consumption of time is a very nice addition.
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