Away from the Crowds – an Eco Tour by bike
Coastal Dunes Regional Natural Park from Torre Canne to Torre S. Leonardo
Parco Naturale Regionale Dune Costiere da Torre Canne a Torre S. Leonardo
Eight kilometres of protected coastline with a surface area of approximately 1,100 hectares or 11 square kilometres; perimeters of no less than 55kms. The nature park ‘Parco Naturale Regionale Dune Costiere da Torre Canne a Torre S. Leonardo’ takes its name from the dunes that are strung along the water’s edge of the Adriatic from Torre Canne to Torre Leonardo. The park stretches inland towards Montalbano and includes the old via Traiana, fields of ancient olive trees and drystone walling, churches, dolmens, caves and the historic masseria – farmhouses.
Dunes are the patient work of plants, sand and wind over hundreds of years; it takes just a season to pass by and cancel everything.
Best visited by bike with a local Guide.
An informative and enjoyable day out for family, friends or couples visiting historical sites and incredible natural landscape of the Adriatic. Ideally visited with a guide so that you do not miss out on the small details, the bike path is family friendly, easy cycling with little or no traffic through olive groves, the wetlands, dunes and down to the sea.
A guided tour of the park is essential. With Vito, my preferred Guide, you get excellent and well-maintained bikes to hire adapted for all the family and an extremely well animated tour. You conclude the tour at a local masseria/farmhouse with the opportunity to try some locally produced products including olive oil at one of the farmhouses within the park.
The Reality of Beach Life
Everyone is or should be aware of the effect that plastic has had on our oceans and landscape over recent years, if not through the media then through our personal experience. However, few of us are truly aware or perhaps we prefer to ignore, the impact that buildings or mechanical cleaning of the sand have had on the beaches.
Features of the Coastal Dunes Park
The park is home to a number of rare species of wildlife, flora and fauna that would otherwise risk extinction without the protection of the guardians of the Dune Costiere. The biodiversity of the park attracts many migratory birds travelling between Europe and Africa, using the area as a pit stop but also for hunting. Equally the mild climate appeals to the birds taking cover for winter.
The fibrous plant you find beached in strands or in balls on the sand in summer have an important job in giving nutrition to a number of organisms on the seabed.
The Posidonia or Sea Forest Life has a fundamental and ecological role along the coastline, to a depth of around 30-40 metres. The plant life has a dual purpose, providing a refuge for marine species and also helps to contain and protect the coast from erosion caused by the force of the waves.
The dunes and the beach are not static but dynamic, so when man builds or mechanically cleans the beach, they impoverish the beach of its natural materials and threaten its existence.
In fact, in June, pre-summer peak period, when the beaches are regularly cleaned of the Posidonia, that is collected there throughout the winter; it causes irreversible damage and erosion of the beach, lowering the coastline and with it the beaches disappear as do the dunes; as the winds and waves no longer find obstacles to stop their destruction.
Dunes have therefore a fundamental function and you will see signs along the coastline of Torre Canne and Torre Leonardo, prohibiting its visitors from climbing the dunes. The dunes accumulate sand which are consolidated by the plant roots. This formation has taken hundreds of years to create and is very important to the eco-system.
Stepping back from the dunes, we have an area referred to as ‘Fiume Morelli’ – a humid ambient or the wetlands. An excellent refuge for herons, egrets and bitterns. There are several rarer birds and species that feed, hibernate, hunt and mate in this natural environment, with seasonal changes in its population.
The area features also an antique construction once used for fishing, and other bodies of water which in the spring, and autumn months have a spectacular atmosphere of calm and peacefulness. A natural basin of freshwaters between the sea and the flat plains of olive trees unfortunately brutally interrupted by the busy highway SS379!
Coastal Dune Park Attractions
Originally the masseria – the farmhouses – were the centre of production, and by the 17th century they were also auto sufficient settlements. The farmhouses were generally comprised of a courtyard, barns, a well, sheep pens, storerooms for goods, a millstone, a grain thresher, drinking holes for the animals, ovens, citrus groves, pastures for the animals and usually a church. Today, the farmhouses in the park, still continue to represent their central role in production, transforming local products and often integrating some type of rural hospitality.
Underground Olive Mills – There are still in existence, a few ancient underground olive mills built close to the roman road, via Traiana, that can be visited, mostly of Roman origin, often modified during the medieval period and operative through until the 19th century.
The via Traiana, the antique road which was realised in the 2nd century united Benevento to Brindisi, aiding the development of the economic development and agricultural production in the area at the time, is testimony to the historical and cultural interest in the park.
The megalithic monument, the Dolmen of Montalbano, originating from Breton, is located at the borders of Ostuni and Fasano. Dolmen signifies stone table or tavola di pietra, a prehistoric structure that is thought to have been used for cults and rituals.