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The Gravina and the Murgia

This southern area can offer visitors new and unexpected opportunities to get in touch with the environment, nature, history and traditions.
A territory that man has always inhabited and crossed, leaving evident signs of its passage and its permanent sites, from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, up to the present day.

La Gravina is a deep ravine, a canyon several kilometers long crossed by a stream. The cities of Matera developed along the cliffs of this Gravina, as we will say in the following pages, giving life to the vast urban fabric of the Sassi and the Civita. The term “gravina” derives from grab (Akkadian-Sumerian> Phoenician> etc. = fossa, digging, incising, from which: grafos, graffiare, graben = tombs, gravure = incision).

With an easy path that descends from Porta Pistola, near the convent of S. Lucia alla Civita, it is possible to reach the most important water reserve of ancient times, that is the perennial water lake called lo Jurio, fed by the Jesce stream, with small waterfalls, during the rains.
Matera, Gravina, Laterza, Ginosa, Palagianello, Mottola up to Massafra are characterized by a common motif of urban settlement in caves anchored on the steep cliffs of Gravina, is the so-called Rock Civilization.

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With the hermit monasticism of the Middle Ages, the phenomenon of rock churches developed, in the caves near the Gravina and in rugged and isolated valleys.
La Murgia (from the Latin murex: rock, stone, from which wall, dry stone wall) is a limestone plateau that extends from Salento to Matera, karst in nature, with typical fauna and flora.

Caves, rock churches and Neolithic villages are the sign of man’s uninterrupted presence in this habitat, first a gatherer, then a shepherd and farmer.The uninterrupted presence of man in this area is testified by dozens of Neolithic villages, rich in tombs and cisterns for water conservation and various foodstuffs.

This territory is very poor in resources, but, over the millennia, it has been wisely exploited by man, who has been able to derive its livelihood by cultivating, in the small valleys and plains, olive, almond and fig trees.
To witness the breeding of cattle and the herds industry of the past, for the presence of pastures, there are numerous farms with sheepfolds, called jazzi.

There are very few woods, some of which remain with specimens of elm, oak and maple. It is rich in patches of mastic, thorny oak, thorns, pears and wild olive trees. Numerous herbs sprout among the boulders and stones, including sage, thyme, asphodels and wild fennel.

*Photo by Marco De Lucia