Vieste is an ancient Daunii
centre situated on the Eastern promontory of Gargano. It is
an important stop to learn about Romanesque times in Puglia,
which here reaches maximum expression in the Cathedral dating
back to the XI Century.
Its territory, due to favourable climatic conditions and close
proximity to the sea, was inhabited since the Neolithic era,
with populations dedicated to agriculture, sheep farming,
fish and subsequently sea commerce with other populations
in the Mediterranean basin.
Finds of Necropolises, utensils and remains of human settlements
have been discovered from this historical period.
Legend, instead, names Noah, who arrived in Gargano after
the Great Flood and who decided to settle here until the death
of his wife Vesta, as the one who named the City after her.
The City was of course, founded by the Daunii, probably at
the end of the Bronze Age, and enjoyed its maximum splendour
between the X and VI Centuries BC.
From the V Century, it suffered the process of Hellenisation
of its customs and was included in the Republic of Rome after
the wars with Pirro (270 BC).
Tolomeo cites the location of Apheneste during the II Century
BC, but in 1987, finds of a temple in a grotto on the small
island of Santa Eufemia, dedicated to the Goddess Venere Sosandra,
of which Catullo mentions in poem 36, locating it in the City
of Uria, makes one inclined to identify Vieste with ancient
Once again the name Vieste can be linked with the cult of
the Goddess Vesta (virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and
family) probably in relation to nostalgia felt for the homeland
by the first Greek inhabitants.
After the fall of Rome and barbaric invasions by the Goths
and Vandals (V Century AD), Vieste was merged for a short
while to the Ostrogoth Reign (496-535), which was extinguished
by the Byzantine General Belisario during the Greek-Gothic
Vieste then passed under domination by the Eastern Empire
and soon became a target for the Longobards, who conquered
Gargano during the VII Century.
Vieste’s strategic position in the Adriatic then put
it at the centre of Saracen desires, who attacked the City
numerous times during the IX and X Centuries.
After returning to Byzantine hands during the X Century, and
becoming an Episcopal Seat in 993, Vieste passed to the Normans
half way through the XI Century, and enjoyed a period of strong
economic development. The new nobles had the Castle and Cathedral
built (XI Century), which were subsequently damaged by the
Venetians (1239), who were forever in search of new ports
for maritime traffic with the East.
Federick II of Swabia had the suburb and castle rebuilt during
It then passed over to the Angioini (1266) and enjoyed a period
of peace then development, abruptly interrupted by unexpected
Turkish raids, which beginning in the XV Century, raged along
the coast of Puglia. The worst was by the pirate Dragut Rais
(18-21 July 1554), who had more than 5.000 inhabitants decapitated
on a stone, which today is known as Chianca Amara.
After the French-Spanish War (initiated during the XVI Century),
the Spanish decided to construct numerous lookout and defence
towers, to avoid new sea attacks on the population.
In 1646, Vieste was gravely damaged by an earthquake.
A visit to Vieste is always accompanied by emotions created
by the sea view and splendid beaches which frame the Medieval
suburb situated on a precipitous spur looking out to sea.
In this part of the City, one can admire the Federick II’s
Castle, which unfortunately though, cannot be visited due
to the fact that it is a military seat, where Pope Celestine
V was also imprisoned; the Pope of great refusal mentioned
in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Nearby, steps lead one to the beautiful Cattedrale dell’Assunta
(Assumption Cathedral) (XI Century), built on a previous church
which was once constructed on the site of a Pagan temple.
There are numerous visits possible by boat to the coastal
grottos, among which we would like to mention the San Nicola,
Campana and Lina grottos.