Monte Sant'Angelo is by the Adriatic Sea about 15 kilometers east of San Giovanni Rotondo. Like many medieval cities, Monte Sant'Angelo has fortified walls and a castle dating to 875. The city is also famous as the site of a grotto with an altar to Michael the Archangel that was visited by St. Francis of Assisi. Some of the streets of Monte Sant'Angelo are for pedestrians only. Shops along the street sell giant loaves of rustic bread, dry pasta noodles, regional herbs and spices, a variety of cheeses, wooden kitchen utensils, and religious souvenirs.
The "Ostie Ripiene" in the store advertisement pictured above refers to a dessert made of sugar-glazed roasted almonds sandwiched in between two communion wafers. This caramelized sweet cake contains a bit of honey and is sometimes flavored with cloves and cinnamon. It is a crunchy and tasty treat that is said to have been made originally by the nuns of the Trinity Monastery of St. Clare. The rollers pictured on the right have ridges for cutting pasta noodles. They are manufactured locally and sell for €1.00 Euro. The same rollers sell for about $15 to $20 dollars in the United States.
The pictures below show the enormous loaves of bread that are produced by the local bakeries. Some of the loaves are used for display where passers-by can see them.
Castle of Monte Sant'Angelo
The castle has a plaque in Italian that describes the long history of the structure. The translation is given below.
The castle of Monte Sant'Angelo stands with its gigantic and powerful structures of different ages in a dominant position following the irregularities of the rocky ridge northward to a peak overlooking the valley of Carbonara di Bari. The castle was built in a strategic position and is mentioned in a certificate of Louis II with a date of 875. Subject to additions and changes over time, the Normans used it not only for defense, but also for administrative and legal purposes. It became the seat of the lordship dell'Honor Montis Sancti Angeli. Robert Guiscard built the tower of the Normans and the throne room. Under Frederick II in 1239 the structure became the privileged castle and home of Bianca Lancia. The Angevins imprisoned there Swabian Princess Philippa of Antioch and Queen Joanna, who was murdered in 1382. Charles III of Naples was born here to the prince of Durazzo. The Aragonese Ferdinand reinforced the castle between 1491 and 1493 by building towers and restoring the circular hull-shaped tower. The castle was then transferred to Skanderbeg who kept it for twenty years. In 1497 the castle went to Gonsalvo of Cordova, and subsequently to the Grimaldi princes. Toward the end of the 1700s Ferdinand of Bourbon gave it to Cardinal Ruffo. Abandoned and dilapidated, the castle became a refuge for flocks and shepherds. It is currently owned by the municipality.
Monte Sant'Angelo is located in the Gargano National Park. The castle was used by Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Aragonese rulers, and each of them made extensions and changes to the structure. Near the castle there are several restaurants. I stopped at a restaurant called "Ristoro degli Angeli" and tried a plate of pasta and fried calamari.
Shrine of Saint Michael the Archangel
The commune of Monte Sant'Angelo has the oldest shrine in Western Europe venerating the archangel Michael. The shrine is a Catholic sanctuary inside a cave in Mount Gargano which has been a popular pilgrimage destination since the middle ages.
The shrine has a stairway that goes down to the cave with the altar. The walls of the stairway have a crucifix and niches for religious statues.
The cave with the altar has been paved with marble squares and outfitted with benches that seat approximately 80 persons. The main features of the altar are a crucifix and a statue of Michael the Archangel holding a sword in his right hand with his arm lifted and ready to swing the sword and strike. Toward the right side, at the entrance of the cave there is partition with a small glass window through which can be seen a faint small cross which St. Francis of Assisi is said to have carved in the stone when he visited the cave during a pilgrimage.