GARGANO RAID – Highlights
80 KM – 3050 D+
Start /Finish – Mattinata – Gargano
The route starts from the historic centre of Mattinata in the panoramic square of Santa Maria della Luce. You head down the town’s main road and then run downhill, turning onto a small paved street which winds through olive trees, leading you onto an ancient shepherds’ track that runs through rocks and single tracks. You soon reach the top of Mount Saraceno, passing through the Daunia Gate, which used to be the entrance to the Daunia Necropolis 2,500 years ago. The trail runs through this incredible archaeological site, an open-air museum seemingly suspended between the sky and the sea. Once you reach the ruins of the old Saracena Tower overlooking the sea, you head downhill, almost running headfirst into the Adriatic Sea. The first part may be easy and fast, but the middle part is very technical and steep. The final section is exposed yet manageable, taking you to the tip of the headland and then onto the isolated and peaceful Mattinata Beach, one of those rare places with nothing nearby, just olive trees. It’s a challenging 2 km beach run, first on sand and then on pebbles! As you leave the beach, you climb back up the other slope of the bay. The first part here is paved (past the entrance to Hotel Il Porto, featuring the first refreshment stop at 10 KM) as you then climb back over the ridge through Mediterranean scrub until you reach the small village of “Principe” at a height of 200 mt. You run down a steep, rapid descent along a shepherds’ path that takes you to the Mattinata Olive Mill. You then immediately climb back up along a path which is initially paved but then turns into a very steep beaten track, leading you over an ancient area used for seasonal grazing, through a thick juniper forest. You emerge at a height of 600 metres onto a charming plain, dotted with manor farms and Podolica cattle. A small isolated path soon turns into a technical single track that leads you to the top of Mount Sacro where an enchanting holm oak forest opens out onto a clearing, featuring a thirteenth-century Benedictine abbey (850 mt AMSL). You pass through the whole of this UNIQUE masterpiece! Once you’ve left this site, you bear left and descend towards “Piscina della signora” (up to this point the trail’s segment has been the same as for the “long” course), joining up with the ancient pilgrims’ way. You head east along this path (to your right), which marks the start of a long manageable section which gradually climbs up the majestic entrance to Umbra Forest, known as “Le Strette”.
From here you run through the heart of this thousand-year old forest at a height of 1,000 metres, passing along dirt tracks carved between tall trees over 30 metres high. The trail travels through the Forest for a few kilometres until you exit at Vergon del Lupo at 800 metres. You go back through the countryside surrounded by huge oaks and ancient olive trees. You descend down to the sea and to the magnificent Vignanotica Bay, along dirt tracks and fast single tracks. You reach the panoramic “Vignanotica-Mergoli” path, which you’re lucky enough to run along in its entirety, overlooking the sea with a unique view over Faraglioni Bay. Once you’ve passed this bay, you climb back up to the woods, up to a panoramic ridge. You then descend once again down to Mattinatella beach, following the whole length of this stretch of sand and then climbing back up the other slope to the cliffs known as Ripe Rosse. Here you find a technical descent in between amazing rocky cliffs, until you pass through the last great valley and then tackle the final climb. One last effort as you run downhill into the historic centre of Mattinata, arriving back at the scenic Square of Santa Maria della Luce.
Gargano and this race offer runners something unique: the chance to cross through three environments, three completely different ecosystems in one single competition: the coast with its beaches and cliffs sculpted by the sea, the countryside of olive trees and holm oaks, and the unique flora and fauna of the Umbra Forest! It offers a trail through two internationally important historical and archaeological sites, crossing two beaches, as well as starting and finishing in the historic centre of Mattinata. But most of all, you’ll be surrounded by the warm hospitality of Gargano’s locals! We look forward to seeing you! Given its distance, height difference, isolation, tough stretches of sand, and technical sections alternating with really quick sections, this competition puts the emphasis on experience in long distance and mountain running, while giving you a unique thrill and panoramas which you’ll never forget, ever!