Colline Ioniche, Ionian Hills, is the Apulian PDO that enhances the upper part of the Tarantino Ionian Arch. Laterza, a town on the edge of one of the deepest canyons in Europe, famous for its majolica and for the goodness of its bread and meat on the stove, belongs to this territory. Don’t miss a visit to the Muma, the Museum of Laertina Majolica, to the monumental Fountain of the Mascheroni with arches from the Roman era and to the Gravina, since 1999 an Oasis of the LIPU, the Italian League for the Protection of Birds.
Laterza, together with Ginosa, Castellaneta, Mottola, Massafra, Palagianello, Crispiano, Martina Franca and Statte, as well as being part of the PDO Colline Ioniche wine area, is also part of the Terra delle Gravine Regional Natural Park.
Ginosa, with its cave-dwellings, rupestrian churches and Norman castle perched on the cliff, is known to film lovers for being the backdrop to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film “The Gospel according to Matthew”.
Castellaneta is home of the silent film star Rodolfo Valentino and dominates the Gravina Grande, which for kilometres encloses archaeological and rock settlements. But there are also other ravines in the area: Gravina del Porto, with a prehistoric site; Gravina di Coriglione, with the rocky settlement of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli; Gravina di Santo Stefano and the Gravine di Montecamplo with a nature reserve and great archaeological interest. A short distance away is the splendid sea of Castellaneta Marina.
Mottola, a beautiful old town, boasts a territory rich in lame, wide furrows in the ground typical of the Murge landscape, and ravines that can be visited, home to rock villages such a Lama Petruscio and Casalrotto developed around the monastery of Sant’Angelo.
The Gravina di San Marco divides Massafra in two, with the castle that emerges on a spur of rock, where the ancient houses of Via Muro, the churches and places of worship are excavated. The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Scala, the rupestrian churches of the Madonna della Buona Nuova, of Candelora and of San Leonardo and the medieval village of Santa Marina are worth a visit.
Under the castle of Palagianello there is the rocky village with well-preserved churches such as San Girolamo, Sant’Andrea and San Nicola, where a treasure of Venetian coins of the 15th century was found.
Crispiano, inhabited since prehistoric times, reached its maximum splendour in the Greek era as is testified by the “grave goods ” of the 4th century, one of the most important pieces of the “Ori di Taranto”. In the countryside there are many farms built between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Martina Franca owes its charm to baroque palaces and churches such as the beautiful San Martino Basilica and the Ducal Palace, where every year the famous Itria Valley Festival takes place.
The tour to discover the places of the PDO Colline Ioniche ends in Statte, where stands out the Gravina Canale della zingara, with houses carved into the rock. Valuable Neolithic finds emerged from the Gravina di Leucaspide and suggestive disused tuff quarries to be included in the tour among rock churches, dolmens, underground oil mills, the Roman aqueduct of Triglio, the Grotta Sant’Angelo.