Massafra is built on the two opposite sides of the Gravina di San Marco which literally splits it in two. The most valuable piece of the entire cultural and artistic heritage of Massafra is represented by an exceptional complex of rock churches dug into caves and ravines that allowed it to receive the title of the Thebaid of Italy.

Its current name, which derives from the term mansafros, which in Greek means the cave inhabited by hermits, reiterates the unbreakable bond between the city and the ‘underground Apulia of the crypts and the hermits’ which represents one of the most enchanting cultural and anthropological events in Italy. The presence of man in this area is attested to by the artefacts found in the ravines and dating back to a period between the fifth Millennium and 1800 B.C.

The historical tourist route starts from the castle, probably built on a Norman fortress, overlooking the Gravina San Marco;

Continue towards the ANCIENT MOTHER CHURCH formed in a bulwark of the castle, whose chapel is dedicated to San Lorenzo, which retains a statue in gilded wood and pure gold.

Continue towards the SANCTUARY OF MADONNA DELLA SCALA (1731): it rises at the end of a spectacular staircase with 125 steps that reaches the bottom of the ravine once called ‘Valle delle Rose’. Not far away you can visit what remains of the ‘Farmacia di S. Greguro, a complex of interlinking monastic cells (laura) and the ROCK CHURCH OF THE MADONNA DELLA BUONA NUOVA: located on the parvis of the Madonna della Scala partly demolished for the construction of the sanctuary.

Inside there are beautiful frescoes, including one depicting the Madonna Della Bona Nova with child;

The SAN MARCO CRYPT is of interest: located in the homonymous Gravina, with a circular well inside that served for baptisms and a fresco of San Marco, rich etchings in Greek and Latin characterise the CASA DELL’IGUMENO, a complex of caves that housed the dwelling of the Hegumen, head of the community that had religious as well as civil powers.

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