Stretching across a small, narrow peninsula of limestone sits the old town of Vieste, Italy. This whitewashed coastal town is a joy to explore, with its labyrinth of narrow streets, views of the Adriatic Sea, and long list of restaurants, wine bars, and gelaterias.
With one day in Vieste, explore the old town, visit the beach, and take a boat tour for views of the beautiful, brilliantly white limestone cliffs and sea caves along the Gargano peninsula.
In this guide, learn about the best things to do in Vieste, where to stay and eat, and if you want help navigating the old town, follow our Vieste walking tour.
Table of Contents
Overview of Vieste
Vieste, Italy is located on the coast of the Gargano peninsula. This is one of the most beautiful cities in Puglia, with its dramatic location on the coastal cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Vieste is surrounded by beaches, making this a great summertime destination in Italy.
The old town is a small part of the city of Vieste, and for tourists, this is where you will spend the majority of your time.
The old town is small and compact. To get around, you will walk through cobblestoned streets that run between whitewashed buildings. It is a hilly walk and you will climb and descend quite a few staircases as you make your way through town.
Outside of the old town, there are a few beaches to visit, a wide promenade to walk, and a marina, which is the spot to hire or rent a boat and explore the coastline.
Vieste, Italy (this view is from Via Ripe)
Best Things to Do in Vieste
Explore the Old Town (Borgo Antico)
Strolling through the old town is one of the best things to do in Vieste. You can thoroughly explore the old town in about an hour, a little longer if you stop to do some shopping or have a coffee or glass of wine.
As you walk through town, there are a few historical sites to see and several great viewpoints. We cover all of these sites in more detail in our Vieste Walking Tour, later in this guide.
Vieste old town
Take a Boat Tour
Cruising along the limestone cliffs and exploring the sea caves was our favorite experience in Vieste. There is no better way to see this part of the Gargano peninsula than by boat.
Vieste from the sea
One of many caves on the Gargano coastline
Sea arch on the Gargano coast
There are several different boat tours that you can take from Vieste.
Sea Tour with Tour Desiree
Tour Desiree operates a large boat and runs large group cruises along the coastline.
This is the cheapest option (tickets cost about €25) but it does have its downsides.
When the boat is full (which typically happens during the summer months), you have to remain in your seat. If you get stuck in a middle seat, you will lack the views, and the best spot for taking photos. Plus, this is a large boat so it can only enter a few sea caves.
Private Boat Tour
For more money, you can hire a private boat with a skipper. Prices vary widely, costing anywhere from €150 to €600, depending on the boat and the length of the cruise.
We took a private boat tour with La Darsena, which has several different options for private cruises. Our cruise cost €250 plus extra for fuel. On our 3-hour tour, we cruised to Vieste out to Baia delle Zagare, visiting a long list of sea caves along the way. Since it was a private boat tour, we had our captain take us to photo points where we could spend as long (or as little) as we wanted to.
Rent a Boat and Explore on Your Own
You can also rent a boat for the day and cruise around at your leisure.
I’m glad we had a boat captain. Even though Tim and I have lots of experience driving a boat, we would have had no idea where the caves are located and the best way to navigate in and out of them. There are hundreds of openings into the limestone cliffs and our captain, Roberto, knew each cave entrance and was awesome at navigating in and out of the small openings.
LEARN MORE: We cover the boat tour options in much more detail in our article about taking a Boat Tour of the Gargano Sea Caves, including lots of photos and practical information.
Go to the Beach
Vieste is situated between two stretches of long, golden beaches. To the west is Spiaggia di San Lorenzo, which sits right next to the marina.
To the south is Pizzumunno Beach (also known as Castello or Scialara Beach). Pizzomunno Beach is where you can see the massive pillar of rock, mentioned next.
See the Pizzomunno
The Pizzomunno is a large limestone monolith that sits on Pizzomunno Beach.
There are several legends about how this immense pillar came to be. The most popular tale is that the pillar is a young man named Pizzomunno who was turned to stone when he tried to rescue the love of his life, Cristalda, from the sirens who lived in the sea.
Pizzomunno makes an appearance in the movie Wonder Woman, filmed in 2016, along with other beaches along the Gargano coastline.
While exploring the old town, you will find many souvenir shops. For sale are local foods, jewelry, clothing, wine, and olive oil.
Try the Local Foods
With its location on the Adriatic Sea, you’ll find fish and seafood on many menus, not only in Vieste, but also throughout Puglia.
Olives are grown throughout the Gargano peninsula, so you’ll see olive oil sold throughout town, and some shops offering olive oil tastings.
Orecchiette is a small, round, pasta, shaped like an ear, which is how it gets its name (orecchia is Italian for ear).
Focaccia bread, bruschetta, artichokes, eggplant, and cheeses made from cow’s milk and goat’s milk are also found in abundance here.
Keep an Eye Out for a Trabucchi
A trabucchi is a fishing machine that has been used for centuries to pull fish from the sea. The first trabucchi may date back to 8th century.
It looks like a wooden deck but it has long arms that hold fishing nets that are raised and lowered into the sea.
There are a few trabucchi that can be seen from the old town or while cruising along the Gargano coast. The densest concentration of trabucchi are found between Vieste and Peschici.
In nearby regions of Italy, you can also see these fishing machines, but they go by slightly different names (trabucco in the Abruzzo).
Trabucchi | Giuma/shutterstock.com
Go on a Day Trip
Vieste is an excellent home base for exploring the Gargano peninsula. There are several other lovely small towns to visit, such as Peschici, Monte Sant’Angelo, and Vico del Gargano. For more information on the Gargano, read our article best things to do on the Gargano Peninsula.
Drive the hilly roads in the Umbra forest, a dense forest that covers the central, hilly landscape of the Gargano peninsula.
Explore the beaches that line the coastline to the south of Vieste, such as Spiaggia di Baia di Campi, Spiaggia di Portogreco, Spiaggia di Vignanotica, and Spiaggia di Baia dei Mergoli, just to name a few. You could spend a few days simply exploring this long list of beaches.
Walking Tour of Vieste
This walking tour starts at Castello Svevo Aragonese but it makes a loop so you can start anywhere along the loop. It has been written in the counterclockwise direction, which will provide better views in front of you as you walk the loop.
On this Vieste walking tour, you will walk 1.6 km/1 mile. This tour takes about one hour.
The walking route is provided in the map below. We also give step-by-step directions through the old town.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Most restaurants are open for lunch at 12:00 pm or 12:30 pm and then close at either 2:00 pm or 2:30 pm. They reopen again at 6 to 7 pm for dinner. So, if there is a particular place you want to eat, check their hours and plan the timing of this walking tour accordingly.
Vieste Walking Tour Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Castello Svevo Aragonese and Pizzomunno Viewpoint
Since its a designated military zone, you cannot enter the castle. Next to the castle is a scenic view overlooking the Pizzomunno monolith and the beach it sits on. To get to this viewpoint, follow Viale Federico II until it ends at an open piazza-like area and the gate for the castle. To the left of the castle gate there is a small grouping of trees. This is the observation area where you can look out over the cliff to see Pizzomunno.
From the observation area next to the castle, and your back to Pizzomunno, walk straight towards the old town and follow Via F. A. Nobile. Make the second right turn (Via Enrico Bacco), which takes you to a seawall that runs along another section of the cliff edge. This will then open up at Piazzetta Petrone.
The view from Piazzetta Petrone
In 1556, the Turkish pirate Dragut Rais landed in Vieste with 70 ships. The citizens of Vieste did their best to defend themselves but the Turks were able to overpower them and enter the city. Dragut and his army raped the women, took the men as slaves, and beheaded those who could not be sold into slavery, the women, children, and elderly, at this spot.
Chianca Amara, which means “bitter rock,” is a historical monument that marks the spot where a large number of women, children, and elderly people were beheaded by Turkish pirate, Draguth Rais.
To get here, walk on Via Gregoria XIII to this spot.
Take the street to the left of Chianca Amara (Via Nicolo Cimaglia) back down to the sea.
Along the way you will pass Ristorante La Ripa with a lovely garden style setting in an alleyway. The smell of the food filling the alleyway made it tempting to stop but the online reviews were hit or miss so we didn’t eat here.
Once you reach the seawall again you will be able to look down onto a trabucchi, a wooden platform used for fishing. Off in the distance is the Church of Saint Francis (Chiesa Rettoria di San Francesco).
Punta San Francesco Viewpoints
As you face the Church of Saint Francis turn left (Via Judeca) and follow it until your second right turn (Via Vesta). Follow Via Vesta past Hotel Seggio and another cliffside observation area will open up on your right.
The view of Punta San Francesco
Walking along Via Ripe
Church of Saint Francis
Now follow the seawall (Via Ripe) until you reach the Church of Saint Francis. This yellow church sits on the tip of the peninsula, making it the focal point of many photos of Vieste.
The view from the Church of Saint Francis
Trabucco di Punta San Francesco
As you face the Church of Saint Francis, there is a path on the right side of the church that leads down to Trabucco di Punta San Francesco, another wooden platform used for fishing. Stay on the main path and do not get too close to the sea, because in this area sneaker waves can pull you out to sea.
Trabucco di Punta San Francesco
Vieste Lighthouse (Faro di Vieste)
On the left side of the Church of Saint Francis you can see the Vieste Lighthouse perched on its island.
Food and Wine Bars
From the Church of Saint Francis, walk along Via S. Francesco keeping the sea on your right. This will turn into Via Pola where you will happen upon a number of restaurants and wine bars lining the seawall. While these establishments have a great setting, they don’t get great reviews.
Looking back at the Church of Saint Francis from Via Pola
View of the beach from Via Pola
Museo Malacologico Vieste
Continue along Via Pola until you reach Museo Malacologico Vieste on your left. This museum houses a wide collection of seashells from around the world. For hours and pricing, visit the official website.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
A few steps past Museo Malacologico Vieste the street will open up to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, which is lined with restaurants. When you enter the piazza, immediately turn right and head into the corner and follow the alleyway next to the restaurant Tirovino. This will lead you down some steps and onto the promenade.
From the promenade you also have views out over a small sandy beach. The restaurant Al Vaporetto Antipasteria Troccoleria di Mare has a nice setting at one corner of the promenade and gets great reviews online.
View from the promenade
Gelato and Other Restaurant Options
With your back at the promenade and beach, walk up Viale Marinai d’Italia. You don’t have to go far before you’ll see gelateria options on either side of you. Just beyond the gelato stands you will find Puglia Mia and Il Pizzicotto on your left. Puglia Mia serves meat and cheese boards and doesn’t close midday. And Il Pizzicotto offers pizza by the slice or whole pizzas.
The Ladder of Love
Next comes a massive stair climb, but it’s also one of the most photographed spots in Vieste. The Ladder of Love (Scalinata dell’Amore) takes you from near sea love back up to the upper level of the old town.
To get here, follow Viale Marinai d’Italia uphill, turn right onto Corso Lorenzo Fazzini, and then immediately left into a wide alleyway with the Ladder of Love. Ascend the stairway all the way to the top.
Historic City Gate
At the top of the Ladder of Love, turn left and re-enter the historic old town through the city gate.
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
Once you re-enter the historic old town, you only have to walk a few steps and you will arrive at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption on your right.
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
Finishing the Walking Tour
From the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, you have three options to end the walking tour:
1. Wander through the streets of the historic old town. This is what we recommend…spend 30 minutes strolling through the narrow streets in the old town. In here you will find small cafes, boutique shops, and wine bars. It’s not on our walking tour, because we think it’s best to just wander through this part of Vieste, taking the streets that look interesting to you.
2. Follow the steps in front of the Cathedral up to the top and keep heading in that same direction until you reach the Castello Svevo Aragonese, thus completing the loop.
3. From the cathedral, walk down to Pizzomunno and see it from the beach. Most of this walk will be along Viale Frederico II. It takes about 10 minutes and is mostly downhill.
One Day in Vieste Itinerary
With one day in Vieste, spend the morning and midday on a boat cruise of the Gargano peninsula.
Once back in Vieste, have lunch in town. Many restaurants close at 2:30 pm and don’t reopen until dinnertime (about 6 to 7 pm), so don’t wait too long to have lunch, or you might miss your chance.
In the afternoon, follow our Vieste walking tour, have a cocktail in the late afternoon, and in the evening, go out to dinner.
Where to Eat in Vieste
Tutto in un Calice. This small wine bar serves local meat and cheese dishes and homemade pizza. The food is delicious and we loved tasting a flight of local wine during dinner.
Donlù Ristorante. This restaurant was very high on our list but we never had time to eat here. We did walk past it…it is a fine dining restaurant and prior reviewers rave about the food. On the menu is Pugliese cuisine paired with great wine.
Osteria Al Duomo. Located on a small alleyway in the old town, you can dine outside, sitting in a garden-like setting or inside, in the picturesque stone building. This restaurant serves mainly seafood dishes.
Puglia Mia. For local meat and cheese plates, local wine, fast service, and outdoor seating, put Puglia Mia on your list. It’s located just outside of the old town. We ate here after our boat tour, when many other restaurants were closed, and the food was fantastic.
Pietra Pizza Gourmet. For good pizza and reasonable prices, put this one on your list. It is located in the old town.
Where to Stay in Vieste
We stayed at Dimora Cummà Marì, a 4-star small boutique hotel, and had an excellent experience. This is one of the highest rated properties in Vieste on Booking.com. Breakfast is delicious, with local foods and fresh juice. This small, boutique hotel has a rooftop terrace where you can overlook Vieste, a beautiful place to be at sunset. And the property has an excellent location, just a few steps away from the old town and some of the best restaurants in Vieste.
Quintessenza Charme Rooms was another place we considered, since it also has a rooftop terrace with views of Vieste. It also gets rave reviews but is slightly farther from the old town than Dimora Cumma Mari.
The view from the rooftop terrace of Dimora Cummà Marì
How to Get to Vieste
The best way to get to Vieste is by rental car. It is possible to get around by bus, but buses are infrequent and slow. Having a car also gives you the freedom to explore the smaller towns and beaches on the Gargano peninsula.
When to Visit Vieste
The most popular time to visit Vieste is the summer months. The days are long and the weather is hot and sunny. Cruising the coastline and relaxing on the beach are the top activities to do in Vieste in the summer.
For fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, plan your visit for May and mid-September to mid-October.
We visited Vieste the first few days of October, which marks the beginning of the off season. The average high was 22°C (72°F) with sunny skies and cool evenings. Some restaurants had already closed for the season, with more planning to do so in the upcoming days. We really liked being here at this time, since the weather was beautiful and crowds were light. It was a bit chilly to go to the beach, so keep that in mind.
By November, this area really gets quiet and stays that way until April. Expect chilly, cloudier weather in the late fall through early spring, with fewer restaurants and hotels open for business.
What We Did
We spend about two and a half days in Vieste.
On day one, we drove from Pescara to the Gargano peninsula. On this drive, we visited Vico del Gargano and Peschici, having lunch in Peschici. We arrived in Vieste in the late afternoon and had dinner in town.
On day two, we took a boat cruise in the morning, had lunch, and then explored the old town in the afternoon.
On day three, we visited a few beaches south of Vieste and spend the afternoon in Monte Sant’Angelo.
The morning of day four, we left Vieste and continued our tour of Puglia, visiting Trani and Polignano a Mare before arriving in Alberobello.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Vieste, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
PUGLIA: Read about 15 beautiful places to visit in Puglia, the best things to do in Alberobello, and check out our Alberobello Walking Tour. We also have a guide to the best things to do on the Gargano Peninsula and how to take a boat tour to visit the Gargano sea caves.
ITALY ITINERARY: On this 10 day southern Italy itinerary, visit the Amalfi Coast, Castelmezzano, Matera, Alberobello, and more towns in Puglia.
ROME: For a list of the top experiences in Rome, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome. Learn how to put these together in our 2 Day Rome Itinerary, where to eat in our Rome Restaurant Guide, how to visit the Vatican, and where to stay in our Rome Hotel Guide.
SAN MARINO: San Marino is a tiny country located entirely within Italy. It is gorgeous to explore and one of the most underrated places to visit in Europe.
ASSISI: In our article Best Things to Do in Assisi, we cover the top experiences to have, plus where to eat and where to stay. In our One Day in Assisi Itinerary, we have a detailed walking tour of the historic city center.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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