Gargano Promontory is from a biological point of view, an island that is located just outside of the plateau of Tavoliere at Foggia.
The area has a very chalky soil, rich in natural formations such as caves and doliner (funnel-shaped holes in the ground). Many thousands of years ago, the mountain was covered in forest which currently only covers 15% of the total area. Gargano is synonymous with cities such as Carpino, Ischitella, Tremiti Islands, Peschici, Pugnochiuso, Vieste, Vico and Vieste.
Protected area: The Gargano National Park was created in 1991 to protect the unique and beautiful medley of shapes and colours of the coastline, mountains, plains, forests and Mediterranean vegetation and settlements. The park protects an extraordinary concentration of different habitats, ranging from the high cliffs to the warm valleys of the southern hillside, rich in various rare plant and animal species.
Foresta of Umbra: The Foresta of Umbra is a primeval forest, an ancient relic of the Gargano peninsula's indigenous forest, where you will find a green paradise surrounded by silence, broken only by the rippling of the leaves. Foresta Umbra therefore appears as representative of the original Gargano, who headlands is its heart and lungs. You can be justifiably upset about the senseless devastation that has taken place over the last three centuries that have left large areas of Gargano bare. On the other hand, we can rejoice that the Forest of Umbra has kept its vegetative wealth intact, which can be enjoyed from the many paths that are built around the 11,000 hectares of forest.
Wetlands: The reason the National Park was founded was simply to protect the important wetlands such as the lagoons of Lesina and Varano, and the swamplands Frattarolo and ex Daunia Risi and other wet areas such as the estuary Fortore, Frattarolo estuary, Fortore, the area at the old lake Lago di Sant'Egidio and Sfinale bog. They are interesting not only for their compositions but due the life that lives in these wetlands: Amphibians, reptiles and the birds that live here during their migrations.
Flora: The National Park covers an area of 121,118 hectares and contain a number of unique habitats: in the dense and widespread forest areas with the classic Mediterranean vegetation (consisting of myrtle, arbutus, mastic trees, laurel, holm oak, heather and vintersnebolle, also called Italian snebolle) on plateaus rich in sinkholes and drainage; by the dramatic cliffs pierced by caves, in the green and wooded valleys running down to the sea, the lagoon along the coast of Lesina and Varano, and by hills and Frederik II's steppe plains. Finally, the Tremiti Islands are officially recognized as part of Garagno and they also contain a number of habitats. Each of these areas is characterized by a very diverse flora; there are more than 2,200 botanical species, which together cover 35% of the national flora. For example, here, you will find the largest concentration of wild orchids in Europe.
Gargano as mentioned above, is also referred to as an island. Because for many years the promontory remained untouched, phenomenon known in Italian as endemismo - this means that one or more species (plants and animals) live exclusively in a specific area - and macrosomatismo - this means that some species are characterized by a special or abnormal growth extending beyond the ordinary, have occurred. In the National Park one finds trees that have assumed monumental forms: one example is a carob with a circumference of 13 metres and a holm oak at 17 metres high with a diameter of 5 metres.
Fauna: The national park has a biodiversity that has no equivalent elsewhere along the Mediterranean. It has more than 170 bird species (out of a total of 237 in Italy), including the buzzard, kestrel, hawk, peregrine falcon, marsh harrier, toed, osprey, eagle, eagle owl, plain tawny owls, barn owl and little owl and others. In the woods you will find 5 species of woodpeckers: green woodpecker, black woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, lesser spotted woodpecker and Lilford's woodpecker, the latter of the two are very rare and can only be found in protected areas in Italy. In the same habitat will find different species of finches, crows, pigeons etc. In the wetlands you will find 46 of the 60 bird species that nest on the water in Italy, such as different species of heron, ducks, etc.
The national park is home to many different mammals, some of which are more significant and unusual than others. One of the special is Capriolo Italico, a subspecies of the known deer that is unique in that it only lives in the National Park; here are, of course also wild boar. Of reptiles and amphibians you will find among other things, turtle, slow worm, Aesculapian snake, hazel snake, half-finger gecko, aspishugorm, common snake, green lizard and lizards in general, and the croaking and hopping frogs and toads.
Beaches: This National Park is home to many of the most beautiful beaches of Apulia, from the white reef in Gargano to the elongated southern sandy beaches of Gallipoli. The National Park Gargano is home to some of the best beaches of Baia di Manaccora (shingle beach surrounded by reefs) north of Peschici, the Baia delle Zagare and beach Spiaggia di Vignanotica (white sandy beach surrounded by impressive cliffs, situated next to the most azure sea that one can imagine, which features large white rocks located south of Pugnochiuso. Baia di Manaccora is an extremely popular place for surfers to meet and practice their battle with the waves and wind.