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Visiting Monte Sacro, an old abbey on the hill in Gargano, Puglia.

 

Monte Sacro, an old abbey on the hill in Gargano, Puglia is an interesting spot to visit.  Having a nice short hike you can get to a little-known, even by the locals, place. 

Monte Sacro is a hill about 874 m high, which was originally called Monte Dodoneo. It was a pagan sanctuary of the cult of Jupiter. When the Bishop of Siponto saw the Archangel in the cave, the prelates and bishops destroyed the pagan temple. Monte Dodoneo became Monte Sacro. From the 6th to the 13th century, this place served as a Benedictine abbey. In the 15th century the place was abandoned and began to fall into ruin.

 

Ruins of on old church with the trees in the background and green grass.
The ruins of the abbey.

There is a legend related to this spot with naughty monks in the lead role.

Long ago, farmers and shepherds lived at the foot of the mountain. Grazing their sheep, they went down into the valleys spending  months there. Taking advantage of the absence of the men, the monks came down the hill to beg around the settlements. Actually the monks turned into demons. In addition to scrounging, they  took advantage of the lonely women.  The shepherds went back home and  gone bananas as they had found their wives pregnant. Mad and armed peasants attacked the abbey. The monks fled the monastery, but farmers caught and beheaded them. 

Firstly you have to drive for about 20  in from Mattinata. 

Them, to visit the former home of the mischievous minks, you have to climb the hill. It took me around 40 minutes, but I wasn’t rushing myself (as usual).

A woman with a backpack is going through grass and big white stones toward trees.
The grass and white stones at the beginning of the path.

 

The place and the beginning of the path it’s not easy to spot, as there is no visible sign. This is actually a kinda problem in many places in Italy. Sometimes getting to destinations is tricky. Anyway if you spot on the road a wooden fence/gate with a tree, a small sign and, white stones, it  might mean you found it.
I have visited it twice: last year and two years ago. The path starts gently  through a hill covered with plants and with stones, that look like huge mushrooms.
Some unique species of orchids grow here as well. I don’t know which ones, but people who are into plants might find it interesting.

The next part of the path was a bit funny, as I encountered cows.

A wooden fence standing on the grass where the cows graze
The cows.

 

Well, a lot of cows. I’m not afraid of these charming animals, but I’m (or rather I was) a city girl.  Until today I’m not able to distinguish if a cow is a cow or a cow is a bull. Especially when cows are young.
Fortunately, the cows minded their own business and just looked at me from time to time. I kept walking and just watched where I put my steps.

After a few minutes, I reached the wood and started climbing sticking to the path. This part of the track is solely in the forest. There are points to stop, sit down and have lunch or water. There aren’t any fountains on the track, so always bring water with you.

I didn’t really know what to expect there and I was quite surprised as the place was beautiful… and full of cows.

Cows standing on the ruins of an old church between the wall and trees.
The ruins of the abbey and the cows.

 

Monte Sacro is in Forresta Umbra, thus it’s rich in plants. Farmers use the ruins area as a pasture. I believe it’s illegal, but well, who cares? It’s the South of Italy and unfortunately, very often nobody cares. So again I had been watching my steps to avoid not very pleasant surprise and just enjoyed the surrounding.

Among the ruins you can still see the original structure of the abbey: the  church with a belfry, dormitory cells, baptistery, refectory with kitchen and so. Here and there you can see traces of frescoes on the walls.

Ruins of the old abbey covered with plants standing in the forest.
Ruins of the abbey hidden in the forest.

 

The site is of course abandoned and the ruins are not maintained in any way. Only nature takes care of it. Surprisingly, the place even with ubiquitous cows was picturesque. The parts of the walls covered with wild greenery looked wonderful. Sometimes it seems that nature is the best architect and the best curator. There were people having a picnic, as the place is very tranquil and good to spend a few hours.

It’s a shame that such places are left to themselves without any management.

I think this is another Italian problem. Or maybe it’s a problem of countries with long, rich history and thousands of monuments, and many places are just abandoned. I’m guessing the maintenance of every single place that has historical value would be extremely expensive.  It’s not even possible. Therefore places like an abbey in Monte Sacro are becoming more and more hidden and overtaken by nature.

The ruins of an old brick wall overgrown with trees
The nature has taken care of old brick walls of the abbey.

 

Not far from Montesacro there is an agroturism farm, where you can have coffee and eat something.  I don’t know what the food tastes like because I haven’t tried it, but the coffee was ok.

What to take yout you to climb Monte Sacro: comfy shoes, a hat, sunscreen cream and water. 

 

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