Not so far from the spur of Italy’s boot there are five little islands which constitute the only Italian archipelago of the Adriatic Sea.
"This place inspires my visionary way of narrating the world and it also helps to dream, especially if there is a wonderful starry sky, that otherwise you can admire only in the Sahara." This is how the Tremiti Islands are described by Lucio Dalla, the Bolognese singer, who chose the archipelago as his second home.
The unspoilt nature, the crystal clear water and the variety of the colours of the seabeds of these islands attract many visitors every year. The islands have been a marine reserve of the Gargano National Park since 1989.
The archipelago is composed of five islands or "Diomedee", according to the legend. They're part of the Borghi Autentici d'Italia (Authentic Italian hamlets).
- San Domino. The most populated and tourist-friendly island is San Domino, the island that offers most accommodation facilities. The Lighthouse of San Domino is the emblem of the biggest island of the archipelago, covered by a stretch of Aleppo pines. Along the coastline, the rock crumbles into caves, only reachable by boat. Not to be missed are the Grotta del Bue Marino and Punta di Ponente with their wreck of a Roman ship.
- San Nicola. The Island of San Nicola has been inhabited by several orders of monks for almost one thousand years. It is the historical heart of the Tremiti Islands. It is dominated by the fortified towers of San Nicola and the Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare, with its mosaic floor and impressive walls. Starting from the elegant cloisters of the abbey, a panoramic path embraces the whole island and leads to the Greek tombs.
- Capraia (even Capperaia or Caprara). A completely uninhabited island, covered by several kinds of herbs and flowers including the caper bushes, from which it takes its name. It is the favourite destination for underwater divers, thanks to breathtaking diving in Punta Secca and Cala dei Turchi.
- Cretaccio. Little more than a rock, is the smallest island of the archipelago. It is uninhabited and wild and looks like a natural bridge to connect the main islands: San Domino and San Nicola.
- Pianosa. The island of Pianosa is the farthest, approximately 21 km from the others. Due to its limited height, when sea storms occur the island is completely submerged. The name of the island comes from its particular appearance: a plain of scree (what the Italians call a pianoro di pietraia).
The Tremiti Islands' climate is Oceanic Mediterranean.
The tourist season runs from May to October. However, the best time to visit the archipelago is in September and October, thanks to the sunny climate, fewer crowds and traffic jams at the marina, and lower prices in comparison to August.
The islands were used as a place of confinement from the Iron Age (4th-3rd centuries BC). The Roman Emperor Augustus exiled his granddaughter, Julia the Younger, to the Tremiti on charges of adultery.
In the 9th century, the Benedectine monks founded the Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare, on San Nicola, and ruled the archipelago during the Middle Ages. Later, the abbey hosted several orders of monks until 1783, when the King Ferdinand IV of Naples suppressed the abbey and set up a penal colony.
Under the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, the Tremiti Islands continued to perform their function of confinement. Hundreds of homosexuals were deported to the internment camp of San Domino, which closed after one year in 1939.
Myth and legend
However, documentation regarding the origin of this archipelago is poor. This lack of information has been filled by the proliferation of several myths and legends. It is believed, indeed, that the islands were born at the hands of the Trojan War hero Diomedes, who threw five boulders that he had carried by him from Troy into the sea, which resurfaced as islands.
The legend continues with Diomedes who was buried on the Tremiti Islands and with his men were transformed by the goddess Aphrodite into seabirds, called “diomedee”, which still inhabit the cliffs of the archipelago and continue with their scream to mourn the death of their leader. This is why the Tremiti Islands are also called “Diomedee Islands”.
Bringing a car, a motorbike or a camper to the Tremiti Islands is generally not possible, only residents are allowed to have a vehicle.
The best way to get to the islands is by ferry from the ports of Vasto, Vieste, Manfredonia, Peschici and Termoli. From Termoli, the main port, ferries depart everyday of the year (generally one-way trip takes about 1 hour), while from other ports there are only seasonal runs from July to September. The only year-round company from Termoli to Tremiti, Tirrenia, has a fast ferry (45 min) and also slow ferry (1 hr, 40 min) to San Domino.
You can also reach the Tremiti Islands by helicopter, with the company Alidaunia, which offers flights lasting 20 minutes from Foggia to the San Domino Heliport.
- 1 Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare, 71040 San Nicola di Tremiti FG. M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 07:00-23:00. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria a Mare is a Catholic Church, which was also a monastery and an abbey through the centuries. The impressive and majestic Abbey of Santa Maria was built, according to historical data, in the 9th century by the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino, later renovated in 1045, until, following the invasion of Dalmatian corsairs, despite the fortress being surrounded by walls and fortifications, it was sacked in 1334, where the monks were killed. ;According to mythology, the abbey was built by the hermit San Nicola, to whom, it seems, the Madonna appeared requesting him the construction of a sanctuary.;In any case, the abbey of San Nicola became a real fortress, which over the centuries has also suffered numerous other attacks and invasions, until, in 1700, King Ferdinand IV of Naples transformed it into a penal colony, making it also a theatre of naval battles (in fact it is still possible to notice the presence of cannon holes). In the Fascist period it was used to imprison political and homosexual prisoners.; Later, the façade and the portal were modified through the addiction of some decorative patterns in Renaissance style. These modifications were commissioned by the Canons Regular of the Lateran. On the portal there are delicate reliefs portraying the Virgin Mary with Saints and Cherubim. The church's interior retains its original structure intact: it has a rectangular plan with three naves and a double deambulatory. Special attention should be paid to the works of art present in this church, such as: The wooden cross, with a particular shape, typical of Greek-Byzantine iconography; The wooden statue "S. Maria a Mare", that represents the Virgin and Child; the Wooden Polyptych on the main altar, a gold laminated carving; the mosaic floor that, after several restorations, can now be admired on the central nave, and that probably is the most significant piece in the Church. ; The cloister of the monastery is also worth mentioning: the first cloister (the most ancient one) has an 18th-century well in the middle, with water coming from a big underground cistern.
- 2 Grotta delle Rondinelle (Swallows' Cave), Sentiero Cala delle Rondinelle, 71040. It takes its name from the swallows that nest there in springtime. The grotto is supported by two big natural pillars. A magical place, known for the way it looks at sunset during the hottest days of summer: the rays of sun that pass through the cave’s entrance create a game of reflections between the water and the walls showing an enchanting variety of colours.
- 3 Grotta del Bue Marino ("Marine Ox" Cave), Colle dell'Eremita (at the foot of the cliff called Ripa dei Falconi). The cave owes its name to monk seals (almost totally extinct in the Mediterranean by now) that in old times inhabited the area, and until a few decades ago wallowed in the waters of the archipelago. It is 70 m long, but only 2 m deep, and has a tiny sandy beach in the back. Due to the shallow depth of the sea in this point, the sunlight gets across the water giving a turquoise colour to the whole space. It sits at the foot of the Ripa dei Falconi, where the legendary birds, the Diomedea, are said to nest. On its ceiling are found the oldest rocks of the islands, dolomitic limestone of fossil origin. As you enter the cave, the light gradually decreases until it is totally devoid of light in the innermost part. Furthermore, the innermost part of the cave divides into two branches, one of which overlooks a small beach.
- 4 Grotta delle Viole (Violets' Cave), Perimetrale Colle dell'Eremita. Called by many “the fairy cave”. Its name can refer to the purplish shades that can be admired especially in the early morning during summertime, thanks to the combination of the limpid and bluish water with the wide range of wonderfully coloured fish, that emanate charming nuances when they are illuminated by the sunlight; it may also refer to the abundance of violets and other flowers that cover the grotto's sloping rocks.
- 5 Pineta di San Domino. It rises 116 m (381 ft) above sea level, consisting of a long path of Aleppo pines, as wild as it is bucolic and poetic, which reaches the coast by two rocky paths; walking through the pine forest, you will arrive at the lighthouse of the island, now defunct and rumoured to soon become part of a luxury tourist resort. It offers beautiful views of the archipelago.
- historical and cultural excursions to the island of San Nicola.
- scuba diving and snorkelling around the seabed of all the islands, but above all of Capraia Island, where you can explore Punta Secca and Cala dei Turchi.
- boat tour of the archipelago, visiting the caves like "Grotta delle Rondinelle" and "Grotta delle Viole".
- taking a walk around the Aleppo pinewoods of San Domino.
- taking the panoramic path to the San Domino Lighthouse.
- take a peek at the four metres statue of Padre Pio (popular local saint) on the seabed between Capraia and San Nicola.
- Ditta I Saraceni Group, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Rental of motor-powered inflatable rafts. €120.
The Tremitese cuisine is essentially Mediterranean, based on Adriatic fish, served in all its facets: raw and cooked appetizers and main courses with sauce. You can also choose grilled meats and side dishes of baked vegetables.
Typical produce of this area include treccine tremitesi, limoncello or fennel and anise flavored pastries, and a fennel or myrtle digestif.
In addition to the typical cuisine, you can also find many restaurants and bars that serve specific cuisine for people with celiac disease. For quick lunches, you can find delis and minimarkets in San Domino that serve sandwiches and budget options.
- 1 Gastronomia Fiore, Piazza Sandro Pertini 3, San Domino, ☏ . Typical local products, sandwiches to be filled as you like, and takeaway dishes. Here you can also buy the famous tremitesi capers. Recommended for lunch.
- 2 L'Altro Faro, Via G. Murat 18, San Domino, ☏ . Here the absolute protagonist is the fish: fish skewers, fried fish, octopus. Tapas are another peculiarity that allow you to taste more things: one tapa goes from €1.5 to €6. There are also meat or vegetarian dishes. €21-41.
- 3 Da Enrichetta, Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, San Nicola, ☏ . The restaurant offers spaghetti with clams, a classic of the southern Italian cuisine, prepared with the archipelago's fresh fish.
The best way to enjoy these dishes is a glass of white Daunia IGT.
San Domino offer a wide choice of hotels where you can stay.
- 1 Villaggio Touring Club Italiano, Via 4 Marzo 1943, 1 Cala degli Inglesi (San Domino), ☏ . A resort near San Domino town. There are rooms with seaview, restaurants and lounge. The price includes breakfast.
- 2 Hotel Kyrie, Via San Domino (near San Domino town), ☏ . The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, entertainment services, restaurants, breakfast served at poolside, and the opportunity of scuba diving. Services also include laundry service. Animals are allowed in the hotel. €108.
- 3 Hotel Eden (near the main square of San Domino), ☏ . Has a terrace overlooking the Adriatic sea and the Santa Maria A Mare abbey on San Nicola. The hotel has a diving center. There are family rooms and no-smoking rooms. Air conditioning, minibar, TV, private balcony. The price includes breakfast, Wi-Fi, shuttle bus service. Animals are allowed in the hotel.
- 4 Albergo Rossana, Via Federico II 4 (San Domino), ☏ . The hotel offers sea view rooms, free parking, free Wi-Fi, bar, breakfast included, restaurant. Air conditioning, private balcony, TV. Animals are allowed in the hotel.
- 5 Resort Punta del Diamante, Località Punta Diamante, Snc - 71040 (San Domino), ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 10:30. Free Wi-Fi, breakfast included, luggage storage, lounge and shared TV room. Air conditioning, TV, safe. Animals are allowed in the hotel.