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Ginosa cave settlement
Ginosa is located off the beaten paths of Puglia. Located exactly an hour away from the capital of Puglia, Bari, it is almost at the border between Puglia and Basilicata. It is sited 240 meters above sea level on the southern slopes of the Taranto Murglia. It extends from the ravines to the sea and from the plains to the hills of Murglia. It is interrupted only by the Casale area, a 3 km fissure in the limestone rock that surrounds the entire historic center of Ginosa. The plant life of the area alternates between vineyards and olive grooves. This actually signifies that Ginosa is known for excellent wines and olive oil. Within its territory, the Bradano and the Galaso rivers flow. Ginosa has an inhabited bathing area a few kilometers from the city called the Ginosa Marina.
Ginosa is reputed for its ravines which surrounds the town. In the ravine, there are two settlements. The village Casale and the the Rivolta district. They both have a system of cave houses. The special feature of the cave houses is that they are all built to have southernly exposure. This ensures that even during the freezing winter, the houses remain warm.
The Rivolta settlement is a troglodyte settlement which has 66 cave houses arranged on five floors and are linked by steps. All the cave houses have a chimney and some of them have cisterns for water collection, ovens, shelves and cellars. Another unique characteristics of the cave dwellings is a system that allowed the collection of rainwater through big and small canals. The water was then channeled to the caves and used for purpose of cooking, tending animals and irrigation of crops.
They did not just build cave houses, they also built cave churches in the settlements. There are three rock churches in the settlements; Santa Barbara, Santa Lucia and Santa Sofia. Sadly, these structures have been largely destroyed by a flood in 2013. Only Santa Sofia can be reached presently. Inside the church, there are remains of frescoes and altars creating an overall impression of something that might have been very artistic and beautiful.
A tour of the cave settlements will not be complete without the tale of how the settlement came to existence. Like almost all rock shelters, it became a place of residence when the resident of the surrounding area came under attack. It was said that the Romans used to inhabit Ginosa. They were very prosperous and happy until they came under attack from the Goths and other Germanic tribes. It was at this point that it was decided that living in the open plain wasn't exactly a good idea and the people sought refuge in the ravines. The soft limestone of the ravine made it easy to cut into. The first cave homes were created this way. It later also protected them from the Saracens as well.
Visiting Ginosa will not be complete if you don't also do a tour of the Chiesa Madre, the Clock and the Norman Castle. Also make sure you partake of their interesting cuisine and never miss out on tasting their wines.