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“Smile…You’re in Manfredonia” is a line the locals say, and I spent my 3-days in Manfredonia, Italy doing just that.
My first reaction when I was invited on a blogger trip to Manfredonia was- “Manfredonia where?!”
So like any savvy travel blogger would do… I googled it. Manfredonia is a town that lies on the eastern coast of Italy, to the south of Monte Gargano in the commune of Puglia and the province of Foggia. The purpose of my trip was to experience the famous Carnevale di Manfredonia and also explore the Gargano region.
On our first day in Manfredonia we took a tour of the town’s main sights. The town of Manfredonia was founded by King Manfredi of Swabia who wanted to give a home for all the “orphaned” inhabitants of old Siponto, which was sadly destroyed by an earthquake in 1223 and a tidal wave in 1256. In 1528 Manfredonia resisted a French attack led by the Viscount of Lautrec, but it was eventually destroyed In 1620 by the Turks, who left behind only the castle and part of the walls.
Today, the town’s main attraction is the castle, which has been restored and renovated. In this guide I’ll include all the best things to do in Manfredonia as well as tips on where to stay.
How to Get to Manfredonia
To get to Manfredonia you can either fly into Bari Airport or Naples Airport. Bari Airport is the closest. To find cheap flights, I usually use a combination of Google Flights, Momondo and Skyscanner.
The best way to explore Manfredonia and the Gargano Peninsula is by hiring a car, so you can arrange to pick up your car at the airport when you land. Rentalcars.com and Discover Cars are both good for comparing rental car prices.
Distance from Naples to Manfredonia: 216.4 km, 2 hours 30 minutes
Distance from Bari to Manfredonia: 130.6km, 1 hour 30 minutes
If you don’t want to drive, you can also take the train to Foggia from either Bari or Naples. Once you reach Foggia, take the local bus to Manfredonia.
Things to Do in Manfredonia
Castello Svevo Angioino Castle
The main tourist attraction in Manfredonia is the Swabian castle, the construction of which was started by King Manfredi. Sadly he never got to see the completed structure because he was killed in the Battle of Benevento, but it was later completed by the Angevins and shows signs of various transformations, restorations and renovations throughout the years. These days the castle houses the National Archeological Museum and several ‘Daunian Steles’ with engravings. The castle is free to visit, so you don’t have to worry about buying tickets.
Manfredonia Marina & Lighthouse
Next up, take a walk along the waterfront to the port, where you can admire views from the top of Manfredonia Lighthouse. This automated working lighthouse was built in 1868 and consists of a white octagonal prism tower, with balcony and lantern, on top of a 2-storey white keeper’s house. The lantern sits about 20 meters (66 ft) above sea level and emits one flash in a 5 second period.
The lighthouse offers panoramic views of the beach in one direction and the fishing boats in the other. One thing I love about coastal towns is the smell of the sea air and the fresh fish caught daily by the fishermen.
Statua di Re Manfredi
Close to the waterfront and the castle – in Piazzale Ferri – stands a beautiful bronze statue of Manfredonia’s founder, King Manfredi di Svevia, on horseback. The statue, which is more than three meters high, was inaugurated in May 2015 and was created by the Mapelli artistic foundry in Cesate, based on a project by Professor Lovaglio.
Manfredonia Main Street
Spend an afternoon along Manfredonia’s main street, Corso Manfredi, where locals like to parade up and down then turn around again. In the morning this street is bustling with activity, but come lunchtime it’s completely deserted as everyone goes home for lunch. In the evening the families come back out again, then they leave to make way for the younger crowds late at night.
Church of San Domenico in Piazza del Popolo
The church of S. Domenico and the adjacent convent were built by Charles II of Anjou between 1294 and 1299 and inhabited by the Dominican Fathers until the invasion of the Turks in 1620.
In the 18th century, after the sack of the Turks, the convent and the church had to be rebuilt and repaired. Originally, the church had three naves with a Gothic facade and a beautiful rose window. The facade that you see today was restored around the 60s.
The church preserves a sixteenth-century Madonna, Latin epigraphs by Manfredonian patricians, a crucifix and various canvases. A highlight is the magnificent portal, which features two lions (one on either side), a fresco of the Madonna and the Angevin coat of arms.
The Cappella della Maddalena now houses the “Rizzon Collection” – a permanent collection of ceramics from ancient Puglia.
Cattedrale San Lorenzo Maiorano
Another major highlight is Manfredonia Cathedral, which was dedicated to Saint Laurence of Siponto, one of the patron saints of the city. The first cathedral was built in the 13th century, but had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed by the Turks in 1620.
Inside the cathedral are various frescoes by Natale Penati of Milan, depicting Pope Julius III and Pope Benedict XIII; the apparition of Saint Lawrence to Totila; the saints of Siponto; Justinus and companions, and the Martyrs of Forconio.
The cathedral also preserves portraits of the archbishops. some parchments, the baptismal registers from 1600 onwards and various books. On the exterior of the building you’ll notice a beautiful, brightly colored painting of the coronation of the Madonna.
Lunch at Bacco, Tabacco e Venere
If you’re feeling hungry after all that sightseeing, head for a delicious seafood lunch at Bacco, Tabacco e Venere– a cozy restaurant in the heart of the town. I ate some antipasti including octopus, aubergine and bruschetta, followed by ‘little ears’ pasta with mussels and a tasty filet of fish. This of course was washed down with a lovely glass of white wine from Puglia.
Abbazia San Leonardo in Lama Volara, Manfredonia
Abbazia San Leonardo in Lama Volara is located 10km from Manfredonia and was built around the beginning of the twelfth century. The most intriguing thing about this church is that it features small holes in the roof of the Church and every year, on the 21st of June, the sun streams through the gnomonic hole, casting a projection of light in the middle of the Church. Weddings are often held there at this time of year.
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto
The Romanesque church of Sta. Maria di Siponto (1117), 2 miles (3 km) southwest, marks the site of the ancient Sipontum, conquered by the Romans in 217 BC and the see of a bishop from the 1st century AD. Abandoned in the 13th century because nearby stagnant lagoons had made the site unhealthy,The cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore di Soponto can be found 3km from Manfredonia and was built in 117 in a Romanesque style, with a dome and a crypt.
Manfredonia Travel Tips
Where to stay in Manfredonia- I stayed at the Regiohotel Manfredi wellness resort just outside of Manfredonia. Other options include Palace Hotel San Michel, Hotel Panorama del Golfo, Relais del Corso and Futura Club Emmanuele. Manfredonia also has numerous B&Bs and small family run guesthouses.
Where to drink in Manfredonia- Civico 5 is a popular bar with the young and trendy- if you like tequila, try their Hawaiian margarita.
A Final Word…
I left Manfredonia feeling like I had seen another side of Italy, away from the tourist trail. My lovely English translator Patricia- who happens to be from Stockport not far from where I grew up- introduced me to an English lady in the street on the night of the Carnival parade. As we walked on, she said “Now you’ve met the only other English person in Manfredonia!”
The people here were friendly, the food was to die for and best of all I discovered a wine shop selling a liter of wine for €1,40!