Midnight at the Oasi

Trip Start May 14, 2011
Trip End Jun 04, 2011

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Villaggio Camping Oasi

Flag of Italy  , Puglia,
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(C) Every once in a while, my travel partner picks one right.  And the Gargano peninsula is a good pick!  We traveled through miles and miles of flat country covered with grapes, and artichokes, and tomatoes, and all kinds of vegetables - the countryside that makes Puglia one of the largest producers of food in all Italy (and Sara informs me is a remnant of Mussolini's efforts to make Italy self-sufficient in food, which seems easy looking at all these big fields).  And then you pass through Manfredonia and suddenly you're in some very rough country.  We read in the trusty Lonely Planet (circa 2001) that various parts of Italy match the Amalfi coast for scenery without the crowds.  They mention the west coast of Calabria, but we think LP doesn't say nearly enough good things about the Gargano.  Although maybe that's for the best.

The road into Vieste is spectacular.  Maybe I'm getting used to driving on tiny roads with small cars forming a third lane to pass on blind curves - nothing wrong with that - and this road was no exception.  But everybody stopped when we got to the Baia di San Felice with the chalk white arches in the blue water.  Even the guy who had been attached to my rear bumper for several miles, gritting his teeth and cussing my roman plates, and who finally passed me in a fit of rage, turned around when he realized he'd missed the viewpoint.  We think he got punched by his girlfriend who yelled at him for careening down the highway and missing the good stops.

So after the lookout, the drive up to the amazingly beautiful white town of Vieste is along a broad sandy bay literally crawling with campgrounds.  Based on LP's thorough review of the area, we thought there were only a couple of good campgrounds.  But we believe that LP didn't actually go to any of the campgrounds they recommended - because we did. 

We got into town with plenty of time and wanted to find just the right place to stay for several days.  We started at the Camping Capo Vieste - highly recommended by LP.  The place is giant and has big green spaces for campers and tents, but the bathrooms are few and located a long way from the camping area.  The place is probably good for wind surfers - note the windsurfing shop on the beach - because it's at the windy end of the bay.  But we said no because of size and no apparently convenient coffee.  Then we tried several others, including one on the Baia di Sfinale.  This campground was very nice and clean, but because it's halfway between Vieste and Peschici, we were worried about the distance to get dinner.  It was nice and they were rebuilding the bathrooms, so I'm sure it would be a fine place to stay for several days - but mostly if you have a camper.  It also had a good grocery store, but the distance to cooked food sealed the deal.

Nearer to Peschici, we traveled down a curvy road-of-death to two campgrounds on the Baia San Nicola.  One called "Baia San Nicola" and one called "Campeggio San Nicola."  Both of these campings have very picturesque locations, but the road down is so treacherous that we couldn't imagine eating dinner in Peschici and then traveling down this road in the dark - after un litro di vino and some post-dinner booze.  We walked all through the Baia San Nicola and the facilities were not up to snuff.  As many of you campers will understand, nothing ruins a good camping like spiders in the toilet.  So we also drove into the Campeggio San Nicola, which is in much better shape than its more bohemian neighbor, but we decided against both because of the road-of-death issue.

After all this, we got lost for a bit in Peschici (standard for us, much yelling) and then bought a map.  As an aside, we found the perfect Gargano map at a beachside stop in Peschici Marina.  I have to say that I really wanted to stay near Peschici because it seems like such a cool town - but our map (which shows ALL of the campings on the Gargano) led us back to the Baia di Santa Maria di Merino - closer to Vieste.  The map helped us narrow down what we were looking for and I'd highly recommend any campers who aren't used to the area, looking for this map before selecting.  As usual in Europe, the campings have all the best spots on the beach and picking the right camping can mean the difference between a relaxing beautiful experience - and a mosquito-ridden, loud-music, ruined camping experience.  Our map didn't have any qualitative guides to the campings, but it did at least show us which ones had tent camping with facilities.  From there we were on our own. 

So we finally settled on the most perfect place for us:  CAMPING OASI. ttp://www.oasivieste.it/ita/pagina.htm.  This place is close to a grocery store (for fruit and cornette in the morning).  It has a perfect pool, which we never used, but it was very nice to sit by in the morning while we had breakfast and checked email.  The morning coffee was great because we could get yogurt, fruit and cornette at the nearby store, and then wonderful espresso at the cafe.  This turns breakfast from challenge to pleasure.  And most of all, the bathroom facilities are close to the camping area and they are absolutely spotless.  The showers are not time-limited, have plenty of hot water, and have small dressing areas with places to set your clothes, etc.  The owners are also kind of awesome.  As usual, la signora does all the work, BUT she is friendly, smiles, and puts up with bad Italian. Bravo. And il signor mostly rides around on a bike dressed all in white, with an awesome white dog named Neve (snow) in tow, and makes sure all is right in the world.  He never fails to greet both of us with a friendly buongiorno, come va in his most gravelly voice - am I in Greece? 
The place is clearly a favorite with Germans and especially the sporting set who bring their own parasails and windsurfers, etc.  It has some apartments, but it's also geared for tent camping and in my view, it's the best on the coast because of its manageable size for tents (read distance to toilet).  It's also only a few miles from Vieste which makes a run into town very easy - for dinner, or just for some supplies, like a bancomat. 

We set up our tent, went to the beach - which has the most amazing powder sand I've EVER encountered - and then went to dinner in Vieste.  We ate on the harbor at a pizza place called Ristorante la Lanterna - Forno a Legna.  A quick note about this place is it's not that awesome, the house wine is barely wine (albeit fizzy which I like, it was watered down) and the pizza was uninspiring though probably cooked in a wood oven as advertised by "forno a legna."  However, the location is really great for people watching along the sidewalk, and the patio around a fountain is probably one of the nicest spots in town.

Afterwards, we stopped for obligatory gelato and amaro.  I had some chilled Averna that the signora brought out for me - honestly, it tastes a lot like Jagermeister (which I like, don't get me wrong.)  Sara also had something that was in a cone - probably mandorle flavored.  By the end of the day, thoughts?:  beautiful spot; delicious dinner; no mosquitoes or spiders in tent; pounding music up the street stopped by about 11.  Perfect.

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Mel on

Is this the end?

gr8escape on

No, but thanks for keeping on us!! We have three more days to report. Our jobs (yes, contrary to popular opinion, we do have grown-up jobs) have just taken over since we returned. We'll get on it soon.

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