The illusion of being able to see everything: that must be what fascinates me so much about islands and peninsulas in general. The idea of a “finite” land, that I can entirely explore. I guess this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed my stay in Gargano, Apulia so much.
Spending 2 months on a promontory (Gargano) was great already, but an archipelagos just a few hours away was something that I couldn’t miss. That’s why I decided to spend one of my (rare) days off on a trip to the Tremiti Islands!
The Tremiti Islands are so called because of their volcanic origin: in fact “Tremiti” refers to “tremor”. Another curious fact is that the archipelagos is an actual “town” in the Foggia province.
My journey started with a 2 hours boat trip from the port of Vieste, on the eastern tip of the Gargano peninsula. That journey itself was beautiful, as it goes all around the Gargano coast, showing beautiful landscapes including the picturesque town of Peschici:
After a while, here they are! Finally approaching Tremiti Islands.
There are 5 islands in the archipelagos, but only 2 of them are inhabited.
- San Nicola – The island with most population. There’s a monastery in the name of Saint Nicolò.
- San Domino – This is the island where most the touristic spots are, such as beaches, hotels, clubs.
- Capraia – An unmanned island named after the typical capers that grow here.
- Cretaccio – Another unmanned, rocky island. “Cretaccio” is named after “crete”, as this is what the island is made of.
- Pianosa – A small, flat, uninhabited island.
I arrived to San Nicola Island, had a short swim in the clear water of the island, then decided to take a boat and have the tour of the archipelagos before coming back and see the monastery.
A wooden boat carrying about 50 people took us around the archipelagos, in and out the sea caves, and showed us every island. The water is so clear, and not too deep, so that you can see the seabed very clearly.
There are so many sea caves on the coasts of these tiny islands, each one with a different name according to its history or shape. For example, I remember the “grotta delle rondinelle” (=cave of the swallows) where the sea swallows go to make their nests.
Inside the caves the light is beautiful and makes the water colored in a bright blue, so clear that you can see the fish underneath even in the dark.
Other than caves, the rocks also have bizarre shapes and you can see little rock arches and other interesting formations such as “the elephant” – a rock that looks like an elephant drinking from the sea.
On the way back, I stopped on the San Domino Island to check out the only sand beach in the Tremiti Islands. Man was it crowded! But still beautiful and I took a long swim. In case you want to sunbathe and all, you will probably have to rent a sunbed because there’s no other space to lay on!
I didn’t have time to sunbathe so I didn’t bother much and moved on to the last (but main) stop of my tour: back to San Nicola Island to climb to the sanctuary and see the archipelagos from above.
Going all the way up to the sanctuary, called “Santuario di Santa Maria a Mare” (Sanctuary of Saint Mary of the Sea) was not easy: the path is very steep and slippery… and the day was incredibly hot. What I can say is that it’s definitely worth the effort, because you will be rewarded with an amazing view over the islands!
At the very end of the path and on the top of the island is the Sanctuary. Nowadays it is a church, but it used to be a monastery and an abbey throughout history. Unfortunately the facade was under restauration when I was there, but I could take photos of the inside.
I just had the time to go back to the harbor and the boat back to Vieste (mainland) was ready to go. It was a beautiful, intense day!
I suggest everyone to visit the Tremiti Islands, and here are my tips:
- Try not to go on high season or a holiday – these tiny islands get crowded too easily!
- If you’re staying in the Gargano area, you can easily take a boat to Tremiti directly from the harbors: Vieste and Peschici will work. This way you can avoid paying extra costs/commissions that usually add up when you book from the hotel you’re staying at.
- August will be the most crowded month and also the most expensive. Try going before or after, and you will get much better deals (I paid €40 for the whole trip, and high season was more than €50).
- If you want to spend the night at Tremiti, you will definitely have to sleep at San Domino – it will be pricey but there are not many options. There are campings as well, but still more expensive than on the mainland. Understandable and probably worth a try!
- Bring sunscreen! You’ll be spending almost 12 hours in the sun without a shelter.
- Allow yourself at least 1 hour to go up to the sanctuary and coming back. It looks close but…
- When I bought the ticket, I chose the “all inclusive” one: it included round trip to/from Vieste, tour of the archipelagos, transfers between San Nicola and San Domino. Other people prefer to buy just the round trip and then hire a taxi boat when they get to Tremiti. Definitely better in terms of flexibility but also more expensive. I guess it really depends on how many people you are. As a solo traveler, sometimes it’s much cheaper to stick to the group (and anyway once on the islands you will be on your own).