You are currently viewing Tourists skip Gravina in Puglia because they don’t know about it. But you should visit it.

Tourists skip Gravina in Puglia because they don’t know about it. But you should visit it.


Many tourists go to Matera skipping Gravina di Puglia, just because they don’t know that Gravina exists.
Gravina is only more or less 30 min by car from the crowded Matera.

Gravina owes its name to ravines, cracks in the earth’s crust similar to canyons.

 The hills are overgrown with plants and one of them is covered with buildings, and in the middle is a canyon.
The Gravina Canyon.

 

The town has a very long history; its territory has been inhabited since the Paleolithic. During the long past, the Greeks settled there but later were replaced by the Romans. 
In the next centuries, all possible conquerors passed through the Gravine, starting with the Vandals, through Templars and Knights of Jerusalem, and ending with the Bourbons, Finally, with the unification, Gravina after centuries of being ruled by different more or less noble families became a part of Italy. With such a rich, long, and complicated past the town and its surrounding is full of monuments and historical places.

The hills are overgrown with plants and one of them is covered with buildings, and in the middle is a canyon.
On of the historical places to visit in Gravina.


What to see in Gravina.

I think the best option is to start with seeing the Gravina canyon. Water has flown for millenia through the ground carving carving large inlets and forming ravine. The river has always been an important source of water, that is why people living there built up a town.

White rocks in the canyon with plants and trees.
One of the white rock sites in the canyon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are about eighty rock sites in the Gravina. The first inhabitants used the caves as their homes. Some of them are really large and partly still accessible. You can see the niches, window frames, vents, and water tanks. I believe  it’s a pretty impressive example of prehistoric civilizations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rock sparsely overgrown with plants with a large grotto carved into the rock.
One of the caves that used to be as a house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you start with the canyon, it’s not possible not to notice the bridge connecting the two sides of the town.

It looks like an ancient aqueduct, so I had thought it was Roman. But the bridge is not so old, it was build in the 17th century and it was used to transport water to the town. Is 1722 due to the earthquake, the bridge collapsed, but the Orsinin family rebuilt it a few years later.

Green canyon with a looking like an ancient aqueduct bridge connectiong both sides of the canyon
The bridge connecting both sides og Gravina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get to the old town or historic center just go along the bobbled road that ends in a slight climb.

The center is full of tuff (local limestone) houses which are connected through an intertwining of stairs and narrow alleys. The old town has pretty a lot of places to visit, such as Pallazzo Ducale Orsini, a former house ot the Orsini family that ruled in Gravina for 500 years.The house is in Piazza della Repubblica.
There are quite a few other famous palaces and villas, for example, Palazzo Calderoni-Martini, the Palazzo Popolizio, or the Villa D’Ecclesis.

If you like visiting museums, there are a few in Gravina.


I think Museo Fondazione Ettore Pomarici Santomasi is definitely worth visiting. You can see amazing l rooms, dresses, ceramics, coins, and even the couch that was used in the James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’. There is also an underground church with frescos. The museum is not particularly popular, which is a pity, because it has many beautiful exhibits,

In the town, like in every single town or village in Italy, you can visit churches.

 

Seeing from the distance an old building of a cathedral standing on the top of a wide hill where are some trees.
A cathedral seen from the other side of the bridge.


As everywhere, so in Gravina as well, the cathedral is the most important of them. People built the medieval cathedral in 1065 and in 1456 the earthquake almost completely destroyed it, then it was rebuild. I don’t know whether the cathedral is the most beautiful church in Gravina, because I haven’t seen any others.

I enjoyed visiting Chiesa Rupestre di San Michele Delle Grotte, which is off the center. We saw the church with a group of Italians, however, the guide – a priest knowing that I’m not Italian, tried to explain to me thing is English.  Its builders carved it out of tufo and it has 14 stone columns.

Three stone columns standing in a carved in a rock cave
The columns in the church.

 

 

 

You can see some frescoes and three stone statues inside. There is also a heap made of skulls and bones, that according to the legend are remains of the Martyrs of the Saracen attack of 999.

 

 

A remains of a colorful freco painted in a rocky wall.
One of the frescoes.

 

 

 

Gravina has many overground places to see, but there is also a hidden part of the town – the underground Gravina. It’s possible to visit it with a guide from the Gravina Sotteranea association.

 

Many tourists who decide to visit the town enjoy hiking and trekking in the Murgia National Park.

Actually it doesn’t matter when you visit the park. Every season offers something amazing: in spring it’s intensively green with colorful blooming flowers. You can see wild tulips, gladioli, and orchids. In autumn the coulours of leaves, cyclamens, and colchicine. The park is not a pristine terrain, of course, a long presence of men has shaped it.

Gravina is a part of Slowfood’s network of slow cities, which means you eat here great quality food. The town is full of restaurants and cafes, so you won’t have any problem finding a good place for lunch or dinner.


 Gravina is a nice town for good holidays.

It’s not crazy popular, so it’s not expensive. The people are friendly and the weather, as usual in the South, is sunny. As I mentioned, visitors go to Matera which is becoming more and more crowded and touristy. Gravina is still more authentic and it’s a town in which the locals live. It might happen that having an evening walk, you will be the only tourist strolling among locals in the main square.

 

I always have a problem with the selection of adjectives to describe Gravina. Actually, I have the same doubts thinking about Matera. I mean I wouldn’t use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe any of them. Gravina is impressive, amazing, monumental, a bit weird, and very old. Not so breathtaking as Matera though, Gravina has a unique atmosphere, something between nature and the town. Still in my opinion is not beautiful though, but neither Matera is. Why? Because it does not meet my criteria for a beautiful place, but even so I believe Gravina is worth visiting. Beautiful is not equal to interesting or fascinating.
If you have an opportunity, just visit them and decide whether the towns are in line with your idea of a beautiful place.

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