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The Gargano Peninsula is a sparselypopulated promontory jutting into theAdriatic Sea just above the 'boot' ofItaly. It is an area of enormous botanicalinterest, yet, until recently, it has remainedrelatively unknown. A region of rollinglimestone hills and tiny, arid fields, itslandscape is punctuated by small medievaltowns and scarred by the erosion that hascreated numerous caves, dolines, swallowholes, deep gorges and rock bridges.Along the northern side of the peninsula,Aleppo Pines and the elegant spires ofItalian Cypress line the white cliffs whichplunge to the wine-dark Adriatic Sea. The fact that the peninsula was once anisland, making it geographically isolated,and the lack of intensive farming mustaccount for its exceptionally rich plant-life.Over 2,000 plant species have beenrecorded here, including 69 species oforchids (the greatest concentration ofdifferent orchid species in Europe). It wasfor this reason that the Gargano Peninsula,just 65 kilometres long and 45 kilometreswide, and reaching a maximum height of1,065 metres at Mount Calvo, was recently declared a national park. It is also,of course, the reason behind this excitingNaturetrek tour, on which we hope to seeover 40 of these orchids, together with anumber of bulbous plants and a highproportion of the endemic plant species.This will not be a strenuous tour. We will befar too busy looking at plants to walk fast!It is, however, a 2-centre holiday, starting atMonte Sant'Angelo, an attractive, clusteredmedieval town situated 800 metres up on alimestone escarpment overlooking thesouth coast. We will take some time towander its winding streets and to visit itsfamous shrine of St. Michele Archangelo.Our hotel, situated on the edge of thetown, enjoys wonderful views of the Gulf ofManfredonia, and only a short walk away isan ancient chapel surrounded by flower-laden terraces - a favourite pre-breakfastwalk of many clients. We will not move far on our first day, for wewill spend the time exploring the rockyterraces close to our hotel, wanderingamongst colourful rockroses, asphodelsand large patches of pink ButterflyOrchids. We will also see the endemic paleGoldendrop (Onosma lucana) andencounter our first Bee Orchids, Ophryspromontorii,O. passionis var garganica,O.apulica,O. bertolonii,and possibly O.bertoloniformis,together with the morefamiliar Burnt-tip, Green-winged and MilkyOrchids. On another day we will explorethe Bosco Quarto, walking through an areaof Oak and Hornbeam woods and smallrocky fields. On the way, we will stop tosee a mass of Iris pseudopumila,Narcissuspoeticus,the Pheasant's Eye Daffodil, andcarpets of the lovely Anemone apennina,while during our walk we will seeDactylorhiza romana,the Roman Orchid, aswell as large patches of the beautiful blueIris lutescens, growing in the open fields.Another expedition takes us to Monte Sacro.We picnic below the mountain in flower-filledfields, with yet more orchids: Orchis intacta,the Dense-flowered Orchid, and Ophrysbiscutellaamong them. At the top of MonteSacro there are interesting ruins of the oldabbey of St. Maria. Walking up throughQuercus ilexwe come across Ornithogalummontanumand, in open places, Orchisquadripunctataand O.pauciflora.We will spend the latter part of our holidaybased at Peschici, on the Gargano's northcoast. During our drive across thepeninsula we will enjoy a picnic in theForesta Umbra. This is a good place towalk and see Narcissus poeticus, thePheasant's Eye Daffodil, and blue patchesof the lovely Anemone apennina. We willspend some time exploring the forest, avast woodland reserve of Beech, Holm andTurkey Oak, Hornbeam and Italian Mapleset in the heart of the peninsula. Peschiciis a small and charming fishing village thatspills down the cliffs into the sea. Insummer this is a busy seaside resort butduring our visits we will almost have it toourselves. Our hotel looks out over theharbour, with steps winding up behind usto the old town. From here we will spend a full day inexploration of the north coast. We willmake many botanical stops but our site ofkey focus is Bosco di Spinapulci, a rockyhillside with many familiar Mediterraneanplants, including Cyclamen repandumandsome interesting orchids, includingSerapias cordigera,Ophrys parvimaculata,and the Fragrant Bug Orchid, Orchisfragrans. During the last part of the day wemay take the opportunity to explore theGargano's largest dolina, its limestonecontent assuring us of interesting flowers.By the end of our holiday we will have hadsome wonderful experiences in a relativelyunknown area, and enjoyed the genuinefriendliness of the local people, thebeautiful scenery, excellent local food(including some superb fish!) and winesand, we hope, will have returned with alengthy and highly interesting plant list.Flowers of Italy'sGargano PeninsulaAn 8-day holiday of gentle botanical walks in search of the unique flora - especially the profusion of orchid species - of the Gargano Peninsula.Monday 15th April - Monday 22nd April Cost: £1,295Monday 22nd April - Monday 29th April Cost: £1,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationPESCHICIFOREST OF UMBRAVIESTEMONTE SANT'ANGELOMANFREDONIAFROM/TO BARIMT. CALVOOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Bari and transfer toMonte Sant'Angelo.Day 2/5A daily programme ofgentle botanical walksfrom our base in MonteSant'Angelo.Day 6Transfer to Peschici.Day 7Botanical walks fromPeschici.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationTwo comfortable and friendlyfamily-run hotels, both with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade A/B.FocusPlants, especially the region'swealth of orchids.LeadersAndrew Cleave and Lee Morgan. Single room supplement £150.Extensions Arranged on request.Web quick search: ITA0285View from Monte Sant'AngeloOphrys bertolonii

Tuscany is, in so many ways, the veryessence of Italy. The name aloneconjures up the vivid images sobeloved of painters: those rollinglandscapes outlined by dark cypress treesand enlivened by vibrant splashes of redpoppies, the whole bathed in thatwonderful light seemingly peculiar to Italy.Olive groves, vineyards and magnificenthill-top towns nestle alongside some of themost famous artistic and cultural treasuresin Europe. The modern Italian languagewas born here from the famous works ofDante and Boccaccio, whilst the regionalso witnessed the birth of the greatRenaissance period. The centre of it allwas Florence, where important works of art testify to the genius of the likes ofLeonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.Tuscany is also home to such othercultural gems as the medieval cities ofSiena and Pisa and the smaller SanGimignano. This fascinating and uniquetour will enable us to combine some ofthese wonders with the rich natural history of the region.We begin our holiday with a flight to Pisa,from where we will head south-westtowards the coastal strip and inland hills ofMaremma, our base for the next fivenights. En route we will stop at thestunning little medieval town of SanGimignano. Perched on a hill, with itsfamous towers silhouetted against the sky,it resists all efforts to bring it into themodern world. The hills and coastline ofour destination are protected within theRegional Park of Maremma, which claimsto be the last virgin coastal landscape onthe Italian peninsula. Stunning countrysidecombines coastal marshland, cliffs andpristine sandy beaches backed by standsof Umbrella Pines, Mediterranean maquisand forested hills. Herds of the region'scelebrated white cattle and wild Maremmahorses graze amongst picturesque farms,pastureland and olive groves. The flora istypically Mediterranean and speciesinclude Narrow-leaved and Grey Cistus,Strawberry Tree, Tree Medick and a varietyof heathers, whilst on the sandy beachesCatchfly (Silene littorea), Crucianellamaritimaand Chamomile (Anthemismaritimus) are found. Such varied habitatssupport a wide selection of birds, includingsuch species as Purple Heron, YelkouanShearwater, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu'sHarrier, Peregrine Falcon, Scops Owl,Stone Curlew, Great-spotted Cuckoo,Roller, Hoopoe, Subalpine and DartfordWarbler and Zitting Cisticola. Travelling through rolling hills, scatteredwith small medieval towns and castles, wewill visit a variety of fine sites for flora andfauna during our stay in the region. Thesewill include WWF reserves at Orbetello,Bosco di Patanella and Bosco Rocconi.Orbetello Lagoon is a Ramsar Site, onaccount of its strategic importance duringbird migration, and at the time of our visitsuch species as Greater Flamingo, GlossyIbis, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, GreatWhite Egret, Whiskered Tern, GoldenOriole and Great Reed Warbler may all beseen. The reserves also hold numerousbutterflies, amongst them Swallowtail,Scarce Swallowtail, Southern Festoon (athreatened species in Tuscany), Two-tailedPasha and a variety of coppers, blues,fritillaries and skippers, whilst such orchidsas Pink Butterfly, Bog, Yellow Ophrys,Ophrys saratoiand Monkey Orchid arefound here. Surrounded by crystal clearwaters, the main attraction of picturesqueGiglio Island is its colony of Audouin'sGulls, one of the rarest gull species in theworld and a Mediterranean endemic. Herewe will also hope to see Cory's andYelkouan Shearwater, Peregrine Falconand Blue Rock Thrush. Mouflon, theendemic butterfly Elban Heath and manyplant species, such as Linaria caprariaandthe Sea Lavender Limonium sommierianum(both endemics of the Tuscan archipelago)also occur on the island.The botanists in our party will relish timespent on the Argentario promontory, anarea second only to the GarganoPeninsula when it comes to abundance oforchids within Italy. Some 42 species havebeen recorded here, amongst which areYellow Ophrys, Ophrys saratoi, Small-flowered Tongue, Naked Man, Green-winged, Pink Butterfly, Dense-flowered,Man and Monkey Orchids. We will alsohope to find flowering gladioli, Asphodelusaestivus,Anemone hortensisand Star ofBethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)amongst other species. Next we will travel to the National Park ofForeste Casentinesi, stopping en route toexplore Siena, one of the greatestmedieval towns in Europe and a treasure-house of Gothic architecture and artmasterpieces. Casentino is an area of firand beech forests in which we will bebased for our final two nights. Here we will search for woodland wildlife and, whilst Wolves do occur in the forest, they are elusive and rarely seen. Our tourconcludes with a short visit to Florence(flight times permitting), where we willwander over the shop-lined Ponte Vecchio and soak in the sights of themagnificent buildings dominated by thebreathtaking dome of the great cathedral.One of the most beautiful and famouscities in the world, Cradle of theRenaissance and home of the Medici,Florence is overwhelming. TUSCANY TYRRHENIAN SEA PISA FLORENCE SAN GIMIGNANO CASENTINOSIENA GROSSETO RISPESCIA GIGLIO ORBETELLO ISLAND REGIONAL PARK OF MAREMMA ELBA 86Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Pisa; transfer toMaremma.Day 2/5A daily programme ofnatural history walksfrom our base atMaremma.Day 6/7Siena and Casentino.Day 8Florence, then flyLondon.AccommodationComfortable hotels with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade A/B.FocusPlants, birds and butterflies, plusthe chance to enjoy a little of Italy'sfine cuisine, Renaissance art andarchitecture. LeaderPaul Harmes. Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsExtra nights in Florence or Pisaarranged on request.Web quick search: ITA09Tuscany in SpringAn 8-day exploration of the natural history and cultural treasures of Tuscany.Thursday 2nd May - Thursday 9th May Cost: £1,395The Duomo, FlorenceLarge CopperAudouin's Gull