Gravina in Puglia takes its name from the watercourse that flowed in the furrow of the limestone rock pockmarked by the caves of the Botromagno hill, one of the largest archaeological areas in Italy, once places of worship and dwellings. The Gravina torrent divided the town in two, and to cross it today you have to walk over the bridge-viaduct or aqueduct built by the Orsini family. The town’s history often crosses paths with this noble family and there are many monuments linked to their name, such as the funeral chapel of Santa Maria del Suffragio or of the Purgatory, the Monumental Fountain, the Orsini Palace and the small church of Santa Sofia, which houses the tomb of Duchess Angela Castriota Scanderberg. Not to be missed is a visit to the Cathedral Basilica, where the baptismal font where the future Pope Benedict XIII, born Pietro Francesco Orsini, was baptised, and the impressive organ with 2135 pipes. Then there is the fascinating Gravina Underground, twice the size of the historic centre, where among cellars, wells, majestic aqueducts and even medieval towers you can admire a world carved out of rock.
At the foot of the Botromagno hill stands the little church of the Madonna della Stella, so called because a fresco of the Virgin with a child with a star on his forehead was allegedly found here. The perfect reconstruction of the rock church of San Vito Vecchio can be seen in the building that houses the Santomasi Museum Foundatin, where it is possible to admire the original furnishings, majolica, period costumes and an interesting collection of wine vases and red-figure amphorae from the 4th century BC with scenes of bacchanal and grape harvesting.
The itinerary then leads to Poggiorsini, the smallest municipality in the area, also a feud of the Orsini family and now part of the Alta Murgia National Park.
Part of the territory of Altamura is also included in the Park, as well as in the Gravina PDO area. The town owes its name to the megalithic walls, Alte-Mura, while it earned the nickname Leonessa di Puglia, Lioness of Apulia, when it was besieged in 1799 by the army of the Holy See and put up a long resistance. The religious symbol of the town of Altamura is the Romanesque cathedral with a Gothic portal on which 22 scenes from the life of Christ are carved.
The most famous typical product is bread, which received the Protected Designation of Origin, in 2005 and which, when stale, is the basis of typical recipes such as “cialda fredda”, cold wafer and “pane cotto” , baked bread, to be enjoyed with a good glass of wine.
Spinazzola concludes the itinerary in the land of Gravina PDO. The village retains its medieval structure surrounded by the remains of walls and with particular architectural structures such as the first Templar hospital in Apulia built in 1100. In the surrounding countryside, the landscape includes the ruins of the ancient Garagnone castle, the green of the broadleaf forests that stands out against the red earth of the quarries and the gold of the ripe ears of corn crossed by a scenic railway bridge no longer in use.
After the walk, a snack of pork sausage cut” at the point of a knife”, to be paired with a glass of Gravina PDO red wine can be the perfect end.