Massafra (ca. 360 feet above sea level, 32.000 inhabitants) is situated 12 miles northwest from Taranto.
The town and its surroundings represent a museum in the open air and show signs of human presence since the prehistoric era. Here scholars discovered many finds in stone and in flint among them the famous dolmen of Accetta, which testify the existence of messapic colonies, memories of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations (necropolis of Carrino- San Sergio). The years following the Roman rule were characterised by the migrations of North-African people which settled in the caves of the "gravine" area creating a culture we call today "rocky culture".
One of the possible etymology of the name of Massafra is from "Afri", white people of Latin origin who settles in the Massafra area at the time of Hannibal campaigns.
With the advent of the Basilian monks as a consequence of the iconoclastic persecution by Leone L'Esaurico, the caves were also used as place for prayer and retreat.; not only were the caves real and proper houses, but many of them were even dug to become "rocky churches" where the first Christian communities could meet (crypts of Santa Marina, San Leonardo, La Candelora).

During the Middle Age the Lombard, Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Aragonese rulers followed one after the other and in Massafra you can find many signs of those historical events. In 1497 Massafra was given to the Neapolitan Prince Artusio Pappacoda. In 1633 the Pappacoda family sold this feud to the Carmignanos, followed by the Imperial princes who owned the feud until 1778 (this last baronial family let restore the old circular civic tower of the castle transforming it in an octagonal one).
In the modern age the Commune took the lead of the town.
Today Massafra is known as "Tebaide d'Italia", an expression created by the local historian Vincenzo Gallo which wants to emphasise the great value of the rocky settlements and the importance of the rediscovery of the "gravine".



 

sights in Massafra

Rocky village and shrine of "Madonna della Scala"; San Marco "gravina"; Byzantine crypts: "Candelora", "San Marco", "Santa Marina", "Sant' Antonio", "Bona Nova"; shrines of "Gesù Bambino" and of "Madonna delle Grazie", the dome; the medieval castle; "De Not...
 

sights in the surroundings of Massafra

Taranto the "town with two seas": old town, medieval castle, museum, swing bridge; Martina Franca: baroque palaces, old town, San Martino Church; Locorotondo, Alberobello (trulli), Cisternino; Valle d'Itria; Castellaneta, Metaponto and other seaside resorts on the Ionian coast.