Massafra, Italy

The Land of Ravines, olive trees and vineyards where rupestrian civilizations lived in past.

The town of Massafra is a few kilometres from the Ionian Sea and stands in a territory characterised by karst canyons, caves and rupestrian settlements, known as the 'land of ravines. It contains a rich treasure of history, art, culture and nature. The ravines date from the same geological epoch and were formed by the erosion of limestone rocks. The first inhabitants settled in these canyons as early as the Neolithic period. The two main canyons are „The San Marco’s ravine” and the „The Madonna della Scala’s ravine”.

„The San Marco’s ravine” divides the city into two parts, which are connected by a bridge called 'Ponte Garibaldi’. From this bridge you can admire the picturesque landscape: stone houses and churches rich in frescoes, rich vegetation and numerous species of birds and insects. This ravine was a refuge for Byzantine monks during the iconoclastic struggle. They developed a veritable village with cave houses in the rocks (Santa Marina village).

„The Madonna della Scala’s ravine” takes its name from the sanctuary built on the rocks. The ravine is 4 km long, 40 m high and 30-50 m in size. It contains more than 150 medicinal plants. There are almost 300 caves in the ravine, on its western side. The most important of these are the 'Cave of the Cyclops’, used by its inhabitants as a market, and the 'Cave of the magician Greguro and his pharmacy’. Greguro was a magician who lived there with his daughter Margheritella in the year 1000. They collected herbs and plants from the ravine and prepared ointments for the sick of the village. They stored the herbs in many shelves carved into the rock.