Unlike the other coastal towns of Gargano, all perched on rocky outcrops in a maze of steps and lanes, Manfredonia opens onto the gulf of the same name and has a coastline covered with vast sandy beaches typical of the coast of the province of Bari.
Rebuilt in the 13th century, a few miles from what was once Siponto, on the order of Manfred de Hohenstaufen (where it gets its name), king of Sicily and son of Frederic II, Manfredonia is an altogether modern city.
Far from the decadent charm of the historical centres of Peschici or Vieste, it has preserved various monuments of a certain historical and religious interest around its port, witnesses of ancient Siponto and the dominations which succeeded its founding.
In summer, Manfredonia is of course a seaside resort with everything you would expect to find: all you have to do is choose from the many beaches on the gulf and along the coast towards Mattinata. Plus, from the port you can head off on a cruise to visit the Marine Caves and the Tremiti Islands.
On the hills a few miles from Manfredonia, we recommend you stop in Monte Sant'Angelo, a fascinating place immersed in a religious and fabled atmosphere. Dominated by the austere appearance of its castle, Monte Sant'Angelo has been a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. Crossing the Via Francigena, pilgrims from all over Europe came to pray in this place where, according to hagiographic writings, the Archangel Saint Michael appeared.
Although Manfredonia's centre is modern and practically void of any charm, there is at least one remaining monument testifying to its long history: the town's castle, whose imposing towers dominate the port. Built by Manfred, it passed under the domination of the Anjou and Aragon families, who saw its completion. Today it is home to the National Archaeological Museum where old Daunian steles are preserved, dating from the period between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C..†
Moving away from the centre, we come across the Siponto Basilica, the former cathedral of the ancient city. Today the Basilica's frontage can be seen from the road leading to Manfredonia. According to the oldest documents, it dates back to 1117, the year of its consecration and the laying of the remains of Saint Laurent under the high altar. Practically independent and structured like a crypt, there is another church to be discovered in the basement. Next to this religious building, the remains of the ancient Early Christian Basilica can be seen.
Manfredonia is undoubtedly Gargano's least characteristic resort town but its long sandy coast is ideal for family holidays. Moreover, considering the proximity of Monte Sant'Angelo and San Giovanni Rotondo, it is possible to go on a tour of the religious sites in the surroundings.
It is very difficult to find somewhere to park in the town centre, especially in peak season.
The cuisine in Gargano largely features fish and vegetables but also includes fresh homemade pasta. Let yourself be tempted by the troccoli with cuttlefish, the orecchiette with tomatoes and cacioricotta, and even the stuffed aubergines, all seasoned with a locally-produced olive oil.
A basket made of bulrush, used, as according to tradition, to preserve fresh cheeses and molluscs.