Sunday, April 27, 2014

Massafra Caves

This was my second visit to Massafra, a city just north of Taranto.  The first visit was to the city center, this visit was to the famous Massafra caves and the Madonna Della Scala.
 This is one of few valleys that run through the city of Massafra, the tour today will go down into this valley where the church and caves are located.
 Next to the church is a crypt with many old frescos, this is one of the Madonna.
 I think these frescos date back to the 1700's.
These are the stairs, or the 'della scala' that leads down to the church at the base of the valley.  The legend is that it's not possible to count how many steps this stair case has.  No mater how careful you are, if you count steps walking down, you will always get a different number when you try to verify your count by going up the staircase. 
 The church Santuario Della Madonna Della Scala was completed in the year 1731.
 The interior is simple, but hey, this structure is over 280 years old.
 The back of the church is the trailhead that walks thought the valley and onto the caves.
 There are many caves with many ways to enter.   The cave we were given a tour of used a ladder to get to the first floor landing.
 But the first floor landing was just a transfer to a second ladder that leads up to the main floor.
 The caves are amazing, these were all carved out of the valley walls.  Years ago people lived in this area of Massafra but for a numbers of reasons including many earthquakes the caves are not abandoned.
 You can look across the valley and see other caves.
 This particular cave was huge with many rooms.  To enter some rooms you need to pass through little openings.
 No one was sure what the little pockets cut into the wall were for but I assume at one time they were filled with statues or decerations.
 I was walking around the cave with my head kind of kept low, although this room had a a high ceiling other rooms did not, I wanted to avoid walking into a rock.
 The path between the cave and church was nice too, very nice nature.
 The current set of stairs that lead down to the church was built in 1899, about 160 years after the church was complete.  I was wondering what was in the stairs place before the current stairs.
Massafra is not a place you would normall visit but if you have time it's worth the effort.  To tour the caves, I think you need to contact the mayor or information desk to schedule it.