The Tremiti Islands are an exceptionally isolated archipelago in the Adriatic Sea approximately 40 km east of Termoli and 20 km north of the Gargano Peninsula (the "spur" on the east coast of central Italy). The islands can be classified as arid or semi-arid limestone bluffs broken up by sections of heavily wooded land. Each island is extremely small and the largest of these can be crossed on foot in a matter of less than two hours. Accessible only by boat from Termoli (1 hour) or Pescara (3 hours), the islands are a favorite summer weekend retreat for Italians from Pescara, Ancona, and Bari. Although the small beaches can be absolutely jammed with the day-trippers, late afternoons and early evenings are the perfect time to enjoy the sunset and relax on the sand.
The diving facilities are somewhat limited and not generally flexible. Schedule your dives in advance with the dive center (there's only one), and if you are fortunate enough to have a dive partner, it is recommended that you each rent one tank on the mainland prior to embarking. This is good insurance against a cancellation by the dive center...if they aren't up to a dive, you and your buddy can either do a beach dive, or catch a boat to a different island for a beach dive from there. In any case, the flora and fauna more than make up for any inconveniences.
Normally the dive center organizes the first dive of the day at about 0900-1000 with an afternoon dive at about 1500. Regardless of the time of year, light is generally adequate but as in most other areas of Italy, the prevalence of caves, caverns, and rocky outcroppings underwater makes it wise to bring at least a small underwater flashlight. This will be found to be extremely handy in the event any of these features require negotiation.
The attractions in the Tremiti islands include some exceptional growths of Georgian fans of various colors. In addition there are numerous hard corals very near the shorelines which have grown into vertical pillars...in several areas large numbers of these coral pillars have developed in fairly close proximity to one another. In these areas, a flashlight is quite helpful for illuminating the crevices where moray tend to live. It may happen that when you use your light to see on the inside of a pillar, like peering through bars in a cage, you will see a single eye looking back at you. If you shine your light carefully into the numerous holes on either side of that eye, you may make out the markings on the body of the moray. Infrequently the moray may move their head out to examine visitors...with patience and without getting too close you may be rewarded by a better look.
On the coral growths of this near-shore environment, octopus may also be seen. It is rare to see them out and about...again you will need to use your light to examine the rocky outcroppings and crevices, as this is where the octopus will tend to be found.
Organizing your diving trip requires that you call ahead for reservations at Marlin Dive Center. Normally you will be restricted to two daytime boat dives. If you prefer to get in some additional dives, it is an absolute requirement that you bring one tank with you from the mainland. Air recharges are available on the islands but your filling requirements will have to accommodate the narrow time availability of the dive shop or of the other recharge facility. In addition because you will not have the ability to bring a car to the islands, any beach dive you do will require at least a walk (or a scramble) from the road down to the water. But the clarity and serenity of the water guarantee such a trip to be worthwhile. Ensure before planning a walk-in dive that you check with the dive shop on legal areas to dive from. Because the Tremiti Islands are part of the National Park of Gargano, the islands have been divided into three separate zones.
Three options besides a sore back exist to reach good shore diving...first, see if your hotel/pensione driver will take you in the hotel vehicle (for a price, of course) to a jump-off point where you won't be too far to walk. The second option is to have the hotel call for a taxi. The third option involves organizing a third party with a boat to take you to a specific location on the shoreline and drop you off. All options will require you to organize a pick-up time and location. This is where the risk is involved as you cannot assume (other than with the hotel) that your driver will return on-time, if at all. This has been successfully done, but realize you may have to hump your gear back to your hotel from your selected dive spot beach.
Normally for divers the day will start at your pensione or hotel with a simple breakfast of breads, cereal, juice, fruit, and coffee. Since the diving normally won't start until 0900+/- this gives lots of time to walk to the small harbor and watch the sun come up, or stroll around town enjoying the views. Normally you will need to be at the dive center a few minutes early to ensure all of your gear is loaded on the pick-up truck. Then your will walk 10 minutes to the harbor to meet the boat which is used to take you out. After loading the boat, normally the boat ride to most destinations is not longer than 20-30 minutes.
Upon completion of a boat dive you will have 3-4 hours to kill. This is a superb opportunity to enjoy an exceptional seafood lunch. Several very nice outdoor restaurants are available. It is also plenty of time to catch a water taxi to the other island so check out restaurants there (5-10 minute wait for a water taxi).
Following lunch you will again meet at the dive center and check the truck to ensure all of your equipment is ready and then head to the harbor for your afternoon dive.
A word to the wise about diving with groups at Tremiti...just as applies anywhere else each individual is responsible for his and his buddy's safety. Due to the water clarity it is very easy to exceed depth/time limits, so check your watch and your depth and act accordingly. Always plan on a three to five minute safety stop and ensure your air situation will allow this.
As can be seen in this view from the small harbor between the two main islands, the monastery is perched and in some areas carved out of the rugged terrain. Areas and views such as this are the kinds of attractions which make diving in Central Italy such an enjoyable pursuit.
Because the Tremiti Islands are so small, there is not a great deal to do on the islands other than relax. There is not any shopping of note to be done on the islands due to the fact that other than some interesting shell crafts, the goods available are more of the cheesy tourist variety one would expect to find at American truck stops than at an Italian island.
There are several pleasant trattorias where excellent pizza is served, as well as restaurants where the seafood is exceptional. Like everywhere else in Italy, the wines are superb, and although it is recommended you bypass the wine at lunch if you plan to dive, don't miss it at dinner. The Tremiti Islands are more casual than many other areas of Italy, especially at lunch so if you are eating lunch there really is no need to go in anything other than beach clothes. Dinner at the trattorias is also casual, but at the restaurants it is not. Casual slacks are recommended as well as a light-weight long-sleeved shirt to ward off the cool night air.
When hiking around the Tremiti Islands it is always a good idea to wear reasonably durable footwear. In the height of summer the use of lightweight hiking boots or shoes is recommended, if only to protect the feet from the blistering heat. In the event you do decide to do more walking around, the buildings on the western island are certainly recommended for a visit.
How to Get There
To get to the Tremiti Islands you will need to go by boat, which will be classes as either a hydrofoil (aloscafo) or a normal boat. The ports normally used to get to Tremiti will be Pescara and Termoli. Normally reservations are possible, but it is recommended to arrive at the port at least 45 minutes before departure because at least on weekends there will be a wait in line.
The hydrofoils generally make two to three trips per day depending on the departure port. Ensure you have a copy of the schedule for pick-up at Tremiti...you do not want to miss your boat. When traveling to Tremiti you will arrive at the small port on the island of Santa Nicola. At Santa Nicola on the dock simply buy a ticket for the water taxi to the island of Santo Domino which is only 400 meters distant. Santo Domino is where most of the accommodations are located.
Pescara can be reached via the Autostrada from the north, south, or west. On any of these approaches, look for the signs for Pescara Porto or the Asse Attrezzato. Exit the Autostrada onto the Asse Attrezzato and follow it east into Pescara Porto. Follow the Asse to its eastern end, where it descends to the right. At the stop sign you will see the Coast Guard facility on your right. Bear right and follow the round-about to the left which will head you east towards the Porto Turistico (Tourist Port). From the Coast Guard building you will go east 200 meters to where the road turns 90 degrees south. At that point you will turn left instead of right, and cross through the gate into the small port facility. To your right will be parking near the ticket office (Bigletteria). Park your vehicle, buy your tickets for the hydrofoil and get aboard.
For the hydrofoil from Pescara actual transit time is generally 3 - 3 1/2 hours to Tremiti.
From the Autostrada, take the exit marked Porto and follow the signs to the hydrofoil ticket office. Normal transit time for the hydrofoil from Termoli is 1 hour+/-.
Nautica Cortella (Dive Shop) P. della Marina, Pescara 0039-085-65608 (phone)