Monte Sant’Angelo is a picturesque white town at the highest point on Puglia’s Gargano Promontory, the spur of the boot. Best known for its pilgrimage site, the Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael in a cave, Monte Sant’Angelo also has a castle, the interesting Tancredi Museum of Arts and Traditional Life, and 13th century frescoes in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Its medieval center, full of small, white-washed houses, is charming and interesting to explore on foot.
Plan Your Visit to Monte Sant’Angelo
Monte Sant’Angelo makes a good base for visiting the southern Gargano, including the popular Padre Pio Pilgrimage Shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo. To get to town by public transportation, take a train to Manfredonia and then a connecting bus. Buses run to other nearby towns as well but the best way to explore Gargano is really by car – we recommend car rentals through Auto Europe. The closest airport is in Bari.
- Palace Hotel San Michele is a nice 4-star hotel facing the castle and near the historic center, with a swimming pool, spa, beach shuttle in summer, and views of the countryside.
- Find a hotel in Monte Sant’Angelo, Puglia
- Gargano Map and Places to Visit
- Monte Sant’Angelo Tourism Site (in Italian)
Monte Sant’Angelo is visited most of the year although January and February are not recommended as inland Gargano can be very cold and snowy.
Visiting the Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael
The Sanctuary of San Michele in the grotta is the site where devotion to the Archangel Michael began in the 5th – 6th centuries. Said to have been consecrated by the Archangel Michael himself, it’s believed to be the only church not consecrated by human hands. It’s now a pilgrimage shrine that also includes the crypts and devotional museums.
Start your visit in the square by the 13th century octagonal bell tower. Go through the Gothic arches to the ticket office for the crypt, then descend the long stone staircase (there’s an elevator for those with disabilities) to the nave with frescoes, murals and a small book shop. The Bronze doors leading to the grotta of Saint Michael were made in 1076 in Constantinople with panels depicting Biblical scenes.
The crypts under the basilica floor were the entrance to the sanctuary in the middle ages. They now house the Lapidary Museum with Byzantine and Longobard artifacts from the 7th through 15th centuries. On the walls you can still see inscriptions made by ancient pilgrims, including some who came during the crusades. Visits are guided and can be booked at the ticket office.
Items related to Saint Michael, many of them gifts to the sanctuary from pilgrims, can be seen in the Devotional Museum and include a collection of coins and medals dating as far back as the third century BC, archeological exhibits, and more recent items liturgical objects, paintings, icons, and statues.
Both museums are open from 9.00 to 12.15 and 15.00 to 19:00 (earlier closing in winter). Check current hours on Santuario San Michele.
The Shrine is on the ancient Via Sacra Langobardorum that connected important Longobard sites that now make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a major stop on the Pilgrimage route for devotees of the Archangel Michael that connects Mont St Michel in France, the stunning Sacra di San Michele Monastery in Piemonte and San Michele Sanctuary in Monte Sant’Angelo (see a small map of these sites on this page). In the middle ages pilgrims often continued on to Jerusalem by boat.
More Things to See and Do in Monte Sant’Angelo
People first settled in Monte Sant’Angelo in the 5th – 6th centuries, living in caves near the cave of the archangel. Houses, consisting of a basement and ground floor, were built in rows during the medieval period. Walking through the historic center on the tiny roads and staircases is a delight. Watch for remains of the old communal ovens and wells.
- Visit the castle, First mentioned in the 9th century although parts of it may be older. City walls and a tall pentagonal tower were added in the 11th century.
- Go to the Tancredi Museo di Arti e Tradizioni Popolari to see instruments used in the everyday life of residents in the past and the traditional lace-making as well as art and artifacts of the area.
- Eat at La Caravella Ristorante, on Via Reale Basilica near the sanctuary, a good place to try traditional food, including what Arthur Miller ate at the owner’s former restaurant in 1948, described in his story, Monte Sant’Angelo. Near the restaurant is a small store with food specialties of the Gargano.
Visiting Puglia’s Gargano Promontory
The Gargano is crowded with beach lovers in July and August but the rest of the year it sees fewer tourists. Late April through May is one of the best times to visit when the air is filled with the scent of citrus blossoms and the forest is awash in flowers, including many beautiful species of wild orchids. Easter is also a popular time to visit.
The Gargano Promontory is quite large and offers many interesting things to see and do, from the sea to the mountains. Around the promontory there are great beaches and inland is the Foresta Umbra National Park with hiking trails and lakes. Gargano is dotted with charming medieval towns, important religious pilgrimage sites, citrus and olive groves, and fantastic food.