Vengeful sirens and star-crossed lovers in Vieste, Puglia, Italy

After years of living in Italy, I can honestly say that it is filled with some of the best European destinations. My tip this week  is the lovely, perched seaside town of Vieste, located in the Gargano peninsula (the spur of the Italian boot) in the region of Puglia.  It’s an ideal location for an Italian holiday by the coast as there are plenty of things to do in Vieste and the surrounding area. If you travel outside high season, you can find some good deals at Vieste hotels.

The area has ancient origins, evidenced by the 3rd century tombs and Ancient Greek vases discovered around the town. The town and the entire coastline suffered numerous attacks by Saracen and Ottoman invaders in the 16th and 17th centuries. Dotting the coastline are the impressive watchtowers, which once served to warn the population of invaders arriving by sea.

More recently, this little fishing village has developed as a popular tourist site. Vieste is a wonderful holiday spot. The town itself is filled with picturesque streets and lovely views over the sea.

There are many restaurants in the old town center and a colourful daily market off of Via dei XXIV maggio, in the new town. Stock up on the fresh pasta, local cheeses, wines, olive oil, fresh olives and peperoncino.

Vieste serves as a wonderful base for exploring the interesting Gargano region, with its beautiful Umbra Forest, the Gargano National Park, pretty coastal towns, dramatic coastlines, long stretches of sandy beaches and wonderful coves with pebble beaches, carved into the white cliffs.

There’s also a colourful local legend about the creation of the Pizzomunno rock formation, located on the long sandy beach just at the edge of Vieste. Long ago, a poor fisherman named Pizzomunno lived in the village and he and a local girl, Cristalda, were deeply  in love.

Pizzomunno was extremely handsome and each day the sirens would follow his fishing boat and try to capture his heart, but the faithful Pizzomunno was never tempted. One evening, as the young couple watched the sunset from the Vieste  beach, the jealous sirens snatched Cristalda from her beloved and dragged her down to the depths of the sea.

The next morning, the local fisherman found a white rock formation on the beach and they knew it was Pizzomunno, who had been petrified by his overwhelming grief and chose to stand silent watch on the beach where he had lost his Cristalda. Legend has it that every one hundred years, Cristalda returns from the depths of the ocean to be reunited – just for one night- with her Pizzomunno.

Perhaps Cristalda’s return will coincide with your visit to this beautiful town. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled and you might catch a glimpse of the innamorati in this spectacular Italian seaside destination.

If you are looking for other things to do in Puglia, consider visiting the towns of Gallipoli and Trani.

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