Farmacia del Mago Greguro

The Caves of Massafra

Useful Information

Location: Massafra.
In the gorges which cross the city, called gravine. For the Farmacia follow the road towards Martina Franca/Bari north, turn left at the city limits towards the Santuario della Madonna della Scala. Follow stairs and trail into the gorge, then up the gorge for a few meters.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church SubterraneaCave House SubterraneaCatacomb
Light: nor necessary/bring torch.
Guided tours:
Address: Massafra Tourist Office, 15 Via Vittorio Veneto, Massafra, Puglia, Tel: +39-099-8804695.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The city of Massafra is famous for its deep and narrow gorges called Gravine. It was originally built between the two deepest gorges Gravina di San Marco and Gravina Madonna della Scala. The town was founded in the 6th century AD by a group of refugees called Afri. The bishop of Taranto granted them a Massa, which is a plateau between gorges. Hence the name Massafra.

Obviously the gorges made it easier to fortify the city during the Middle Ages. Later, when the city grew, a new quarter was built on the eastern side of the Gravina di San Marco, the map of this planned city resembles a chess board. Both gorges contain numerous small caves, probably originally natural caverns and abris, they were dug out over centuries and used for numerous purposes. Some of the caves have been used since the Palaeolithic. Many caves have a religious background, there are churches, graves, monasteries and hermitages, those caves ogten have fine murals. While the caves are definitely of considerable archaeological interest, they are until now not protected in any way. On one side this means that the caves are easily accessible and free, on the other side the caves face destruction by vandalism, urinating and youths having parties with bonfires inside the caves.

The Farmacia del Mago Greguro is a series of caves locted in the north of the city close to the church Santuario della Madonna della Scala. The caves were part of a long abandoned monastery and were used for the storage of pharmaceutical herbs by the monks (according to legend).