The wonders of mount Gargano (Manfredonia – Monte Sant’Angelo – San Giovanni Rotondo – San Severo)

In the otherwise pretty flat landscape of Puglia lies a mountain, almost entirely surrounded by sea, called Mount Gargano. It is a mountain of miracles. It is also the first real mountain I am going to climb with my gear-less city bike. Good luck with that.

But it isn’t called the mountain of miracles for nothing. Cycling my way up to Monte Sant’Angelo (well, cycling… It was too steep for that, so I was looking forward to walking another 10 kms up with my bike in one hand and my big backpack on my back), I cursed it. Way to high. But I had started, going back also seemed a waste of time and I really wanted to see the church created in a cave. It was built on the site where San Michele (saint Michael. It took me a while before I realized it was actually the Archangel Michael) appeared with a lot of shiny lights. Then the first miracle happened; Antonio (you see, Antonio is always around) pulled over. He was driving a garbage truck, which was empty, and he could drive me and my bicycle up the mountain. Great!

Life saver Antonio.

This was my life saver Antonio. Whilst cursing my bike trying to cycle up mount Gargano without gears, so eventually walking up, this guy stopped and offered my a lift in his garbage truck! First wonder of mount Gargano.

In Monte Sant’Angelo I visited the underground church, which was absolutely stunning. As mentioned before, I love caves. Outside again, someone commented on the Santiago the Compostela patches on my backpack, in German. I happen to speak German, so I replied. It turned out there was a whole group of people from Austria, touring around pilgrim sites with a bus. They really liked my trip so far and invited me to put my bicycle in their bus and come with them to San Giovanni Rotondo (25 kms further, I already planned to sleep there).

Monte Sant'Angelo

Monte Sant’Angelo. Where the archangel Michael appeared several times in the late 5th century AD.

Then the second miracle; when I got to my bicycle the back tire was empty. So I was very happy with the offer of the Austrians. Then it turned out they weren’t going to San Giovanni straight away, but take a tour around the coast of Gargano, visiting Mattinate, Vieste and Peschici. All those places I wanted to visit, but I figured it would be to far by bike. Now, my bike was broken, but I was going there anyway! Crazy world. The Austrians took care of me like I was some sort of celebrity. We drank schnaps on the bus. It was amazing.

Pils bus

On the bus with the Austrian pilgrims. “Look, there she is. The holy girl from Holland!” Bring out the Schnaps.

In San Giovanni I had to find a place to sleep. I hadn’t booked anything, since there are a lot of hostels and B&B because it is a pilgrim’s site for Padre Pio (a man with stigmata). Unfortunately the sites I found were full. Then the third miracle: the woman from the B&B I was staying with the day before called me, telling she had a friend in San Giovanni, and I could sleep at his place. Cool! Only, it wasn’t in his house, but he has some sort of karate-dojo/shiatsu massage gym where I could sleep. There is a first time for everything.

Sleeping in a dojo.

Third wonder of mount Gargano. I couldn’t find a place to sleep. Then suddenly my host of last night called that she knows someone in San Giovanni Rotondo and I could sleep in his Shiatsu dojo place. Awesome.

The day after my tire only needed some air and I was good to go. I thought. Only about every 1-2 kms it was flat again. Luckily the road went downhill, so if I leaned forward -not putting too much pressure on my back tire-, I was OK. Maybe a bit dangerous, but walking along this road was even more dangerous. 10 kms before San Severo the road stopped going down and I had to walk. But then the nicest farmer of the area pulled over, offering me a ride (“Vieni, vieni!”) on his very old small tractor. He was smiling the whole road because he had a blond (in Italy they consider me blond) girl sitting next to him on his tractor, and the whole neighbourhood could see. Everyone honked at us. Maybe this wasn’t only my, but also his wonder of the day.

Best ride ever.

My tire was still flat. Then this old farmer and his tiny tractor came past. He beckoned me “Vieni vieni!” (“come, come!”). And he threw my bike on this plough. We then raced to San Severo. I was sitting next to him with my waving hair. Everyone honked at him and he had a smile from ear to ear.

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