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spring flowers and natural history in southern Italy

A relaxed week of wild flowers and country walks, exploring the Gargano Peninsula, famous for its diversity of orchids, multi-coloured irises, wild tulips and showy peonies.

The Gargano forms the ’spur’ on the boot of Italy. It is a mountainous chunk of limestone with more in common with coastal Croatia than the surrounding Italian plains, rising up above 1000m above sea level to form a rugged peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic.

The Gargano has a unique botanical and historical legacy, a product of its position, geology and isolation from the coastal plains. It is not surprising that the Gargano is a designated National Park! Our visit is timed to make the most of the wonderful spring flowers.

The area is most famous for its amazing orchid diversity, amongst the most diverse areas in Europe with several endemic forms, including the ‘bee’ orchids Ophrys ‘bertoloniformis’, Ophrys argolica ssp. biscutella and Ophrys fuciflora ssp. apulica, which will no doubt feature high on our list of finds during the week, along with carpets of Green-winged and Pink Butterfly Orchids on the limestone plateau. 

Colourful dwarf irises, Iris bicapitata and Iris pseudopumilia are found in abundance in the rough meadows, with Wild Peony, Poet’s Narcissus and Wild Tulip all adding extra splashes of colour.

We will be based in the historic town of Monte Sant Angelo, perched high on the limestone ridge with views out over the Gulf of Manfredonia, from where we will take daily excursions to explore the various habitats and hidden corners of the Gargano, from the orchid-rich limestone grasslands to the ancient deciduous woodlands that cloak the centre of the peninsula, one of the largest broadleaved forests in southern Europe.

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

pink flowers of Orchis italica, Gargano
white flower of Narcissus poeticus, Gargano
yellow flower of Tulipa sylvestris, Gargano