Where nature has given birth to a complex cave system and humans have carved out unique churches in them, Gravina in Puglia is definitely a bucket-list item that you should check on your travels to Southern Italy.
Located about an hour’s drive from our lovely retreats in the picturesque seaside town of Monopoli, this ancient town has much to offer and is perfect for a day trip. The town is a rich mixture of natural formations, harmonious architecture, and typical organic produce that you can take back as souvenirs to keep tasting the delicious memories of Apulia. After all, it was not for nothing that Frederick II gave the slogan ‘it offers wheat and wine’ to this Apulian town.
A serene view of the Ponte Viadotto in Gravina
So, let’s check out this historic jewel and see what all there is to discover on your day out!
The first item on your list should definitely be the extraordinary, San Michele delle Grotte, in the lap of the ravine caves of Apulia. Perched on the slopes of the ravine, the church area has been home to humans since the 7th-C AD and is worth visiting for its spooky atmosphere and the historic relic that, as legend has it, is a stack of skulls and bones of the inhabitants of Gravina massacred in 999 by the Saracens!
Commonly known as the Gravina Cathedral, the Basilica Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is a beautiful Romanesque-style building with a rose window decorating its facade. The ancient structure is home to a splendid reliquary and holds within its historical treasures the arm of the English saint, Tomas Becket!
Tip: You can also relive history in Apulia at one of the oldest European fairs, the St. George’s Fair (usually on 25th April) that’s happened every year in Gravina since 1294!
The Gravina Cathedral with the intricately detailed rose window
Another historic building that is a must-visit is Sanctuary Madonna delle Grazie. The building’s facade has a spectacular rose window circumscribed by a carved eagle; the coat of arms of the Giustiniani family and the first to ever appear on the face of a religious building. From here you can walk over the ancient Roman bridge called Ponte Viadotto, which is perhaps the most iconic and recognizable symbol of Gravina, and take a breathtaking yet extremely soothing panoramic view of the city from the other side of the river!
Finally, you can top the day off by driving down to the magnificent Alta Murgia National Park, where the harmony of history and nature is at its best. Spread over an impressive 668 kilometres, the park is home to the archaeological site of Botromagno that preserves the remains of the Neolithic civilization and is perfect for a few hours of historic trivia and adventure for history buffs! Take a little detour so that you don’t miss out on the most unique and famous castle of Southern Italy; Castel del Monte, which is a stunning octagonal building nestled right in the midst of the scenic landscape of Alta Murgia National Park.
Tip: If you are staying longer in Apulia, don’t forget to check out some of its other pearls like Polignano a Mare and the capital of the UNESCO-protected Trulli, Alberobello!
What to take home?
Since Apulia has an intense food culture, you can take back plenty to keep enjoying even after the trip is over. You can enjoy “Pallone di Gravina”, the village's famous cheese, or one of the DOC wines of Apulia, which come both in sparkling and still variants!
Have a look at our authentic holiday homes in the best destinations of Apulia!