The ferry from Termoli noses its way towards two petite islands, slipping into a serene Adriatic inlet. To the left, San Domino’s low limestone cliffs rise, crowned by Aleppo pines. To the right, the Abbazia di Santa Maria a Mare, an 11th-century abbey built by Benedictine monks, dominates the skyline of San Nicola. Fishing boats crowd the waters between.
As I set foot on Italy’s most off-the-radar archipelago, it also feels like I’m stepping back in time. Lying 22km north of Puglia’s Gargano peninsula – the spur on Italy’s boot – the five Tremiti Islands (San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa) are part of the Gargano national park, a pristine swathe of protected land and sea. They look more Croatian than Italian, with limestone bluffs, rocky beaches and translucent turquoise water. Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa are uninhabited and cars are banned on the other two, except for residents.
San Domino has the most to offer tourists, and courtesy minibuses wait at the dock to take guests up to the main village, but I set off towards my hotel on foot, passing an incongruous helipad and a contemporary wooden church that wouldn’t look out of place in Scandinavia.
The laid-back atmosphere belies the islands’ stormy past. Over millennia, Roman and Italian leaders used this archipelago as a penal colony. In the first century AD, Emperor Augustus exiled his granddaughter, Julia the Younger, to the Tremiti on charges…
read more: www.theguardian.com