The Sun Mountain, an unmissable bike destination in Puglia. Our guide to Gargano’s cycling routes
Gargano, the spur of the Italian boot, is a little known cycling paradise, even though it is one of the most important vacation places in Italy. A promontory surrounded by deep blue sea, challenging ups and downs and endless climbs for roadbike lovers or breathtaking mountain bike trails in the hearth of the Gargano National Park. And with e-bikes you get everywhere!
Gargano offers also ideal places for open-air stops such as farmhouses (masserie), trabucchi (traditional fishing machines) and mountain huts, where to taste typical traditional dishes, handmade orecchiette pasta, fava beans and chicory, pancotto and lampascioni, a particular kind of piquant onions you can taste only in Puglia. You will find genuine flavors also in the milk products such podolic caciocavallo, sheep basket-cheese and other cheese kinds produced with the milk of Garganic goats. But also bakery products on the “Sun Mountain” are really good: the big bread wheels baked in the wood ovens of Monte Sant’Angelo, the typical focaccia of San Marco in Lamis and the paposcia sandwich from Vico.
GRAN CIRCUITO DEL GARGANO | GARGANO ROLLERCOASTER
The roads of Gargano are a celebration of cycling in its purest form and will fascinate those serious cyclists looking for challenging routes. Wonderful ups and downs on the coastal road from Peschici to Mattinata, switchbacks to Monte Sant’Angelo and to the Foresta Umbra, but also long flat straights such as the one from the Calenella bay to the lagoons of Lesina and Varano. Perfect ingredients for a cycling holiday or a real bike training camp. The Great Gargano Circuit is a rollercoaster made up fo two rings for a total of 200 km e 3000 meters ascent, which has nothing to be jealous of the more famous Amalfi and Sorrento Coast.
The southern ring, starting from the center of Vieste, follows the seaside roads passing by the Zagare bay and the San Felice’s arch, real natural wonders. The return trip is on the internal state road which in its first part from the crossroads of Monte Sacro is closed to traffic and from the pass of “Tacca del Lupo” remains a low traffic road (differently from the coast road which can be pretty busy in summer).
The northern ring, also starting from Vieste, goes through the trabucchi coast until Peschici and becomes totally flat from San Menaio, except a little climb to the town of Rodi Garganico. The return journey is a climb touching the towns of Ischitella and Vico del Gargano. Here, you should better make a stop in a cafe, before starting the switchbacks which will bring you to the top of the Umbra Forest at more than 800 meters above the sea level. The final part goes downhill along the Mandrione road which is surrounded by beeches, Turkey oaks and oaks. Air-conditioned effect guaranteed.
The ride begins in the town center of Rodi Garganico and climbs on the panoramic Citrus and Olive Groves Path. The road, partly dirt and partly asphalted, goes parallel to the coast until Canneto, a place with a country church and a fountain with fresh spring water. Here you will find some agriturismi. The ride continues on a narrow tarmac road immersed in the gardens of Mascherizzo, where the limone femminello del Gargano (IGP) is cultivated.
The best time of the year to do this trip is at the end of winter beginning of spring when the trees are fully charged with fruits.
CALENA AND MONTE PUCCI
This ring itinerary for mountain bikes is perfect if you are spending a holiday in Peschici, and is easy to reach from Foggia by the Ferrovie del Gargano railway getting to the end of the line at the station of Peschici-Calenella.
You can start from the trabucco of Monte Pucci and visit the archaeological site nearby. The route climbs on a mountain backbone all adorned with holms, downy oaks and Aleppo pines. In the middle of the uphill road, you will encounter the red house, a former hunter shelter, the patriarch trees of Gadescia and a farmhouse. Once arrived on the main road from Vico to the Umbra Forest, a place called Parchetto, and after 1 km more of tarmac road, you will merge onto the way back path to Càlena. (Or you can make a 15 km longer ride by continuing uphill towards the Rifugio Sfilzi, alternating the tarmac road and the Baracconi forestal path to get to the center of the Foresta Umbra). All along the way back you will encounter the Manatecco beechwood with an old forestal house, and it is not rare to hear the drumming of woodpecker birds. The flat of Càlena, an ancient Benedectine Abbey, is the final destination of this itinerary which combines historical and naturalistic features.
MOUNTAIN BIKE IN FORESTA UMBRA
Vieste is a privileged place for reaching the heart of the Gargano National Park. Foresta Umbra is full of paths, the more feasible are the forestal ones which are sometimes signed with yellow stripes on the tree bark.
The suggested route is a ring starting from the bay of Sfinalicchio and goes uphill on the Caritate-Sfilzi-Baracconi. In the middle of the way, a short deviation you should perform in silence and by foot will bring you to admire an ancient Medieval fountain built on the only water source in the forest.
Once arrived on the top, something more than 800 m.a.s.l., you may visit all the most iconic places of the Umbra Forest: the charcoal burners village reconstructed nearby the visitor center, the lake, the Falascone area dominated by the beech trees of the MAB UNESCO site, the Otri Lake, Caserma Murgia and Palermo Tower. If you want, you can take this tour as an easy 10 to 20 km long ring, without particular ascents. The best thing is to enjoy it slowly.
The Ginestra route, branching off nearby a chestnut wood on the asphalt military road to Iacotenente, is instead a really fast downhill ending after 10 km on the Mandrione provincial road. The latter is also used by the most of bikers to go uphill more comfortably on the tarmac (time: about 2 hours) and then go downhill via Sfilzi or Ginestra, depending by one’s taste.
And, if that’s not enough, try the trails dug by the Poggio Active Hotel in San Giovanni Rotondo.
This MTB or trekking route, with start and return point on the southern promenade of Vieste, Lungomare Mattei, runs in its first part through the hills upon Vieste. An abandoned road, completely traffic-free, will bring you gently in circa 2/3 hours at the height of 600 meters, almost at the pass of Tacca del Lupo. After a short stretch on the state road, you will turn into a high scenographic dirt road and you will have to open a couple of enclosures (used for pasture animal, you shall close them after you) to finally get in the middle of one of the authentic masseria of Gargano, la Sgarrazza, now an agriturismo where genuine podolic cheese is produced. Easy return, all way down, passing by another typical, San Salvatore, which hosts a necropolis belonging to the pre-roman Daunia civilization.
These routes are available as GPS tracks and printable maps on the website of Gargano Cycle Hub (www.gargano.bike).