An archipelago of rare beauty,
positioned in the Adriatic sea, north of the Gargano peninsula,
San Domino, San Nicola,
Capraia, Pianosa and Cretaccio
make up the Tremiti Islands.
The Islands were known by the
ancient Romans as Insulae Diomedeae. Legend recounts that
the Greek hero Diomedes landed, died and was buried here and
that his companions were turned into Diomedee, (the calonectris
diomedea, or Cory's shearwater) named after the Greek hero,
Diomedes; sea birds who nest in the rocks of S. Domino, part
of the Tremiti Islands.
However, the Islands were inhabited since Neolithic times
(10.000-3.500 BC). In particular, S. Domino has traces of
villages from the 7th, 4th and III Millennium BC, whilst finds
in S. Nicola date back to the Iron Age, as well as tombs from
the Hellenistic Age.
During the Roman Empire, the Islands were definitely used
as a place of confine as testified by the Giulia Minore (Julia
the Younger), Augustus’s niece incident, who when her
adultery was discovered by her grandfather, was exiled on
the islands for 20 years until her death.
Finds from this period uncovered some Domus, being Roman mosaic
The same fate happened to Paolo Diàcono, author of
“the Langobardorum History,” who was exiled on
the Tremiti Islands between 771 and 786, for having conspired
against the Emperor Carlo Magno.
The Benedictine Monks arrived on the islands during the 9th
Century from the powerful Montecassino Abbey and during the
11th Century, the Santa Maria Church by the sea and the Benedictine
Monastery (1045) were constructed.
Over the course of two hundred years, the monks accumulated
enormous wealth and property along the coast of Puglia. They
also had strong relationships with the privateers and traders
along the Dalmatian coasts. These monks yearned independence
from the Montecassino Abbey and were finally substituted by
the Cistercian or White Monks (1237) under the orders of Pope
The San Nicola Tower was built under the Angiò reign.
In 1334, the privateers from the Dalmatian coast, commanded
by Almissa, entered the Monastery by deception: they pretended
to want a ceremony and burial for one of their companions
who had died at sea. During the funeral in the church, they
awaited the pre-arranged signal to take out their knives and
exterminate all the monks, then took away all their wealth
from the island.
The result of this slaughter was so great that the islands
remained deserted until 1412 when Pope Gregory 12th managed
to send a congregation of Lateranense canons.
The new Abbey guests transformed it according to the Renaissance
style and in only a few years managed once again to possess
enormous wealth throughout the territory.
In 1567, the Abbey resisted attack by 150 Turkish ships, commanded
by Piali Pascià.
From this moment however, the Abbey experienced a terrible
period of economic decline, so much so that in 1647, they
proposed to sell the entire complex to the Celestine Fathers
for 400.000 ducats. This transaction was finally impeded by
With the advent of the Bourbons, Carlo III declared the Tremiti
Islands as royal property (1737). His successor, Ferdinand
4th, closed the Tremiti Abbey for ever (1782) and acquired
all their properties. Ten years later, the same sovereign
ordered that the island become a penal colony, where many
people involved in the Renaissance clashes and brigands from
the subsequent century were sent.
In 1806, the island was taken over by the followers of Murat,
who remained until bombardment by English ships. The prison
remained active until 1926, when it became a place for political
confinement, which also accommodated the future president
of the Italian Republic, Sandro Pertini.
On July 14th 1989, the Tremiti Islands were declared a natural