VIA explores the hidden paths in the legendary woodlands of Puglia, dotted with historic towns and countryside hospitality
Archeotrekking is a new kind of experience in Italy that focuses on combining cultural development and environmental tourism as a way to explore cultural treasures and engage with regional crafts and traditions in a territory. A new term to contemporary excursionists, archeotrekking is based on walking itineraries with organized paths, ranging levels of curiosity and overnight stays.
The suggested itineraries are suitable for solo travelers, families and small groups with children ages 12 and over. You can start from the north at Lucera or from Roccetta Sant’Antonio in the south.
In the north end of Puglia, from Gargano to the Daunian Mountains, trekkers will enjoy a cross-town archeotrek that passes through woodland and villages that were home to pre-historic civilizations. The people who inhabit the mountain range have a natural disposition to hospitality and service. Travelers here are not mere passersby; they are guests with whom locals share stories, travel suggestions and ‘slow cooking’ recipes.
The Monti Dauni (Daunian Mountains) a series of three breathtaking mountains where oak forests and maple-covered rolling hills dominate the landscape. Named after the goddess Diana, the woods exude certain wisdom, having survived millennia of historic events and conquests, while each twist of the river greets travelers with legends and stories. Experienced hikers can journey by foot with overnight stops, while other travelers can combine the journey on horseback, bicycle or with the aid of public transport.
The route covers the towns of Bovino (home to a beautiful Basilica and site engravings from 3 B.C.), Ascoli Satriano (with mosaics from the first century and relics of the Daunians’ lavish life) and the medieval town of Pietramontecorvino, one of the most beautiful in Italy. The town is surrounded by wild forests with paths suspended among the trees (Pila di Sant’Onofrio) and Tibetan bridges at Parco Avventura. Built on the foot of Monti Dauni, the town overlooks a magical landscape seen in children’s fairytale books and at the heart is the Terra Vecchia quarter that merits a visit. Puglia’s highest peak is at Cornacchia Mountain, 1,152 meters above sea level. The Frassati Trail located here is perfect for Nordic walking comprising a three-day trek with overnight stays. Find a spot at Cerasa Woods to inhale the fresh air and enjoy a rest.
After crossing the mountains, from the charming town of Faeto, you can enjoy a scenic view of the entire landscape. Faeto town is composed of entangled, cobblestone alleyways with beautiful overhead arches while just outside is the enchanting Difesa Woodland and a botanical garden. From the early morning, local delicacies brew in the air, enveloping you at every corner, making this town an ideal stop for pleasantries and culinary engagement.
On the way are particular points of interest, including visits to the authentic mozzarella farms, fruit picking from the orchards, and a cooking class where amid the scent of freshly picked wild herbs you can enjoy a lunch made with your very own hands and infused with flavor that suits your palate. The banquet style cooking you will often come across comprises a rich array of ‘slow food’ recipes using local produce, linked to historic rural traditions.
Moving from the classical period to the Middle Ages, is the town of Troia home to the Norman Tower and Byzantine sarcophaguses. The beautiful towns of Sant’Agata di Puglia and Rocchetta Sant’Antonio are two additional stops that are highly recommended. Perched at the top of the mountains at 800 meters above sea level and bordering the neighboring region of Campania, Sant’Agata di Puglia resembles a city of the nativity with its Imperial Castle built on the highest part of the town, the protector of its people. Known for its farming activity, the town preserves much of its traditions from the 16th century with a histoic oil mill still in operation.
As you complete the passage through Sant’Agata di Puglia, you can trek the 12-kilometer path to Accadia passing through the Paduli Green Woodlands, and the Frugno stream of Monte Serbaroli, with countless archaeological finds including the Roman Bridge on Calaggio River. Once at Accadia, you can pass the Rione Fossi, the original historic center of the village where a series of caves and pre-historic dwellings mark the locations where Greek hermits once lived. The scene is rather surreal since the city was abandoned after a 1930 earthquake devastated, the town, and yet, this ghost town comes to life every year during the Accadia Blues Jazz Festival, held during the third week in July.
Rocchetta Sant’Antonio is the pearl of the Daunian Mountains, a picturesque village that overlooks the region of Puglia, Campania and Basilicata. At the Mother Church is a treasure trove of priceless art with works by Scognamiglio, Giaquinto and Brudaglio. A network of trails emerges from the historic center to the countryside, passing archaeological sites and the Incoronata Forest (Bosco dell’Incoronata) where ancient churches remain hidden in the undergrowth, as well as the Ofanto River abundant in flora and fauna.
Whether you start from the northern or southern points, the landscape is spellbinding with many tucked away spots for splendid vistas, peaceful observations, light lunches, an afternoon rest, and dinner under the stars. In this authentic, preserved and uncontaminated environment, a sense of revival takes over, even for lovers of the big city. The sense of tranquillity and the natural silence reset your own inner rhythm, the way nature intended.