Gravina in Puglia

Gravina in Puglia is a town in the Alta Murgia, in the province of Bari, famous not only because it was the birthplace of Pope Benedict XIII but also for its naturalistic, artistic and historical beauties which attract thousands of tourists every year. The territory, in fact, it is rich in rocky environments and mysterious underground landscapes.

The municipality is located a short distance from Matera, in Basilicata and from Altamura, a city famous for its bread.

Gravina in Puglia
Gravina in Puglia ©stevanZZ via Canva

What to see in Gravina in Puglia

Unmissable when you go to Gravina in Puglia is the canyon, a set of ravines, inlets formed thanks to the action of water over the centuries and the rock sites, evidence of the settlements that have alternated in the territory over time. Some of these sites are very large such as the Cave of the Seven Chambers and there are around eighty in total..

The churches such as the crypt of San Vito Vecchio, the sanctuary of the Madonna della Stella and the church of San Michele delle cave are also of notable historical and architectural value. The two sides of Gravina are connected by the aqueduct bridge built at the end of the 17th century, a 40 meter high structure that extends for 90 metres, which collapsed in 1722 due to an earthquake and was then rebuilt in various eras. If you continue towards the east, you arrive at the medieval bastion, the only evidence of what was the defensive wall of the town.

If you continue your walk in this ancient part, going up a hill, you reach the historic center of Gravina in Puglia and in particular you arrive at the Piaggio, Fondovico and Borgo districts, a set of alleys full of houses, tuff churches and historic buildings such as Palazzo Ducale Orsini, the palace that belonged to the family that governed the city for five centuries and which hosted illustrious people such as Carolina of Austria, Prince Francis I and Charles III of Bourbon. Another important historical building is Palazzo Vescovile, built in the 9th century, which collapsed following an earthquake in 1456. It was rebuilt in the following centuries with many modifications, where it is possible to admire the statue dedicated to Pope Benedict XIII.

Gravina in Puglia
Gravina in Puglia ©pilat666 via Canva

In Gravina in Puglia there is also the oldest library in Puglia, Finya Library but also some palaces of nobles and scholars who brought prestige to the city. Some of them are Palazzo Calderoni-Martini, Palazzo Popolizio, Palazzo Lettieri, Palazzo and Piazza Scacchi or Villa D’ Ecclessis.

For all museum lovers, the city is full of them. Worth visiting are the Museum and Library of the Ettore Pomarici Santomasi Foundation which collects the most important finds from the archaeological areas of Gravina.

Finally, in addition to the Cathedral, built in 1065, which also collapsed in the earthquake of 1456 and which preserves some statues of artistic value such as the Risen Jesus, Saint Paul and Saint Peter, there are also churches dedicated to many saints: Santa Sofia, Saint Nicholas, Saint Augustine, Saint Dominic, Saint Lucia, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Mary of the Dominicans, Saint Felix, Saint Francis, Saint Sebastian, Saint Mary of Suffrage, of Our Lady of Sorrows, Madonna della Grazia and Mater Grazia.

Trekking and walking enthusiasts can discover the wonders surrounding the city of Gravina in Puglia by visiting the Alta Murgia National Park. It extends for more than 68,000 hectares or the Bosco Difesa Grande, where you can admire numerous plant and bird species. Furthermore, 1km from the city, there is the Castle of Gravina in Puglia, built at the behest of Frederick II of Swabia around 1233. Unfortunately, the monument cannot be visited inside because, in part, it has been destroyed in time.

What to eat in Gravina in Puglia

Not only ancient civilizations, artistic beauties and centuries-old churches but also typical products to try, excellence of the territory. Examples are the Pallone di Gravina, a traditional caciocavallo made with raw milk and defined as a Slow food presidium or the Alta Murgia knife-point sausage, a sausage made with white parts of lard and flavored with wild fennel and chilli pepper. Again, gnomerelli, rolls cooked on the grill, made of kid sweetbreads. Typical dishes of the peasant tradition are Pancotto, made with bread, Murgia vegetables and potatoes; U’Calaridd, a traditional Easter dish prepared with lamb and wild herbs or fresh pasta, such as the one with cardoncelli mushrooms.

Gravina Pallone
Gravina Pallone

For your snacks or quick lunches, the focaccia di San Giuseppe is worth tasting, filled with anchovies, sultanas and onions. Furthermore, calzoni, panzerotti made with semolina and flour and stuffed with sweetened and flavored ricotta and seasoned with meat sauce or the typical Gravina bread are famous because they are different from that of the other nearby municipalities, made in the shape of a braid with a dough made with flour, water and yeast. Other products that can be found in the town’s bakeries are the exquisite taralli, tarallini or milk biscuits.

The wines of Gravina in Puglia are also local excellences such as the Verdeca DOC or the white wines in the dry and sparkling variants. Also, the Gravina DOC, obtained from local grapes, as well as the Greco di Tufo and the white Malvasia. Finally, as regards desserts, the typical one is Sasanello, obtained with flour mixed with vincotto, grated orange peel, cinnamon, clove flowers and cocoa. Is is formerly prepared for weddings and parties.

How to get

Gravina in Puglia can be reached using different means of transport:

  • by plane: the nearest airport is Bari (61 km away) or Brindisi (178 km away). Once you reach the stations of these cities, it will be sufficient to rent a car, take a bus or train to reach the town.
  • By train: trains travel from both Bari and Potenza to reach the city. Alternatively, the State Railways connect Gravina via the Gioia del Colle-Rocchetta Sant’Antonio route.
  • By car, for those coming from the North it will be sufficient to take the A14 Bologna-Taranto motorway (Trani-Corato barrier). For those coming from Bari and Potenza, the SS96. For those coming from Foggia and Canosa, the SS97 delle Murge and finally, for those coming from Matera, the SP53.

Gravina in Puglia can also be reached using the bus service made available by the various cities in Puglia and the rest of Italy.

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