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The Tremiti Islands
The tiny archipelago of the Tremiti Islands is part of the Gargano National Park (Northern Puglia, Italy), a pristine promontory that also includes the Foresta Umbra and the protected area of the Lakes Lesina and Varano.
They look like an exotic destination, but they’re just 22 km far from mainland Puglia, easily reachable by boat.
This archipelago, a former penal colony, comprises five islands: San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa. San Domino and San Nicola are the two main islands.
The islands are not large, with just 4 square km in total. However, they are an important tourist attraction due to the clear and turquoise sea waters and their lush vegetation. Over 100,000 people visit during the summer. Diving hobbyists visit the islands’ underwater caves, shipwrecks and warplane wreckages, as well as 23 underwater trails.
San Domino and San Nicola are the only inhabited islands. San Domino plays host to Italian and seafood restaurants and bars. This rocky island is abundant in cliffs and coves. Aleppo pine trees and shrubs cover the land. It also has the only sand beach in the archipelago, called Cala delle Arene. Its main feature is the Punta del Diavolo lighthouse. Tourists come here for the incredible views and also to admire the lush vegetation. During the 1930s Mussolini exiled homosexual men here as prisoners and a plaque remains on the island in memory.
Most of the residents live on San Nicola, which is perhaps best known for its legends, its thirteenth-century fortress Castello dei Badiali and former monastery Abbazia di Santa Maria a Mare. San Nicola also has its own restaurants and bars, as well as its own beach. Despite having just under 500 residents, the island is five times smaller than San Domino.
Capraia is inhabited, save for the many birds and flora that can be seen there. Tourists can visit the empty rocky island, but they do have to bring their own refreshments. Above ground is vegetation-free, but the underwater rocks are covered in beautiful sea truffles and mother-of-pearl. Just off the coast of Capraia, submerged 14 metres underwater, is a three-metre statue of Saint Padre Pio. It is said it allows a sacredness to the island.
Pianosa’s appearance is completely different. Shaped like a plateau, which gives the island its name, its small height of 15 metres above sea level means the island is often completely submerged. There is hardly any flora or plants on the island, only some wild succulents. Reptiles and rabbits can be found here, as well as birds typical for the Mediterranean climate.
Underwater, again, is a different story. Octopuses, eels and saltwater fish swim amongst the flora. As the island’s wildlife and vegetation are protected, a visitor requires permission to land their boat on the island.
Cretaccio is the smallest of the five, only 4 hectares big. Shaped like a sickle, it has a limestone quay used for mooring boats. Tourists will find nothing else other than solitude.
Tourists typically arrive at the islands via the one-hour ferry crossing from Termoli.