I had the opportunity to take a group of Americans to the Caves of Crispiano, in Puglia, north of the town of Taranto on the Ionian Sea. Crispiano is also called the town of “100 farmhouses”, many with fascinating architectural features dating from the 15th century. During that visit, I met the mayor of Crispiano Mr. Egidio Ippolito, a gracious chap, who spent some time with my group showing us around and telling the history. Crispiano’s caves extend for a kilometer into the region and are illuminated at night. Every December the city organizes a live Christmas nativity scene making the caves a magical place.
The caves go back to the 12th century, when Basilian Monks fleeing from the Turkish Saracene’s religious persecution decided to settle in Crispiano’s valley, a farmland without much housing available. The Monks dug into the earth rocks to make their dwellings and crypts. The caves were also one of the stops Templars made on the way to the Holy Land. The vignettes of Nativity scenes are on display throughout the year, the caves are open to visitors. Every character represents the lifestyle as it was in the 12th century, they are miniatures with revolving mechanisms showing the action of each one. In one corner, there is a man shaving the wool off his sheep, a fisherman sewing his net and the woodworker cutting wood planks, in another corner there is a woman washing clothes by hands at the river and another woman cooking. The faithful reproduction of the village in the caves shows how everyone contributed to life with their activities.The vignettes are an incredible work of precision.
The light inside the caves changed cleverly from day to sunset, night to dawn giving the viewers the right sensation of how it was when people relied solely on the movement of sun and moon.
The Italian national press described Crispiano’s caves as the Bethlehem of Italy. Hopefully, they will not be kept a well-hidden treasure for longer.
Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, the live Nativity scene will turn the caves into a holy, spiritual place and I will miss it.
Happy Christmas to all and if you don’t celebrate it, take a rest time to ponder on your life and celebrate it. Ciao,
Copyright © 2016 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
I am writing a travel diary of my last trip to Puglia with an American group and sharing with all of you my notes of feelings, observations, food-wine tasting and experiences that have changed the life of people traveling with me. The trips I organize are made for people who want to live it up in Puglia! In my books about Puglia cuisine, readers will find many references to Puglia’s history and many easy, healthy recipes to follow at home. Check out my books on