Wine Caves Of Potenza
As we moved towards the end of June, we began to hit the time in summer where it felt necessary to take two showers a day and we found ourselves getting exhausted from the heat quicker. Nevertheless, we were still able to find slower-paced adventures that let us explore a little without the heat becoming unbearable. Or so we thought. One Sunday we took a two hour rode trip to another region south of us, known as Potenza. It was supposed to be a relaxing ride and a quick and easy site to explore, without having to be in the heat all day. But… things didn’t turn out quite in our favor. The air conditioner broke 20 minutes into the ride, a window wiper blade flew off while driving, and the kid got sick from the heat on the way back. Yet, we had a sweaty blast exploring. The ride there was very easy, straight, and a direct shot. Once we got closer to our destination we noticed that there were fewer things, gas stations most importantly, so we decided to fill up before we got too low. There are certain gas stations that allows us to basically receive a “discount” on gas by using a certain card given to us by my husband’s work. There was one instance when we didn’t use this special card with a designated station and it cost us $70 to fill up our car tank that would have normally been about $30 with the card!! Anyway, we found what we thought was a gas station on our GPS and headed there for a quick break. Turns out it was just two single pumps and no attendants. I’m happy to say that I figured out how to work the pump (which was in Italian) and we safely filled up. And yes, I made my husband take a photo because I was proud of myself!
The only thing on our “must-see” list was Palmenti Park- stone caves that were built into the hillside and once used for storing grapes and winemaking. They are thought to be between 700-800 years old! It was not a very big park but it was still a unique thing to see and the surrounding views were amazing! There isn’t much detailed information that I could find about these caves, but luckily there about 3 signs (in italian) around there that described a little more of what we were seeing and experiencing:
“The first news relating to this rural agglomeration located in the so-called Tofi, date back to the nineteenth century, even if the typology was already in use since 1700, as can be seen from some historical documents of Basilicata. In fact, “a little house in front of the factory” millstones are called in the vicinity of the Pietragalla vineyards especially when these are located far from the inhabited center or millstones inside the basins “suitable for holding wine with a courtyard in front” of the inhabited center (Mancosa , Santa Maria della Grazie and Casale). Like other rural constructions they follow the elementary principle of constructive economy, using the materials present within the restricted limits of the surrounding environment. The excavated material, reduced to regular stone blocks, was used both for the construction of the vaults and for the construction of the facade, where the only access was created. The external face is made of harder stone blocks, quite regular and very often connected at the top with the curved lines of the ground. The exit is often protected with wooden doors. Inside there is a complex system of tanks at different heights, for pressing grapes, fermentation and for tapping the wine to be transferred for storage in the cellars located in the north of the town. The roof of the atrium is vaulted with stone ashlars covered with a thick layer of topsoil (backfill with relative vegetation), which somehow guarantee a certain waterproofing, sufficient thermal insulation, stability and walkability of the roof itself. The aggregation of the various caves facilitates the unloading of forces. The exposure of the fermentation tank is almost always to the North, while the atrium to the South or Southeast. The façade, the only element of the “factory”, has an opening for access and a slit for the expulsion of carbon dioxide during fermentation, which allows it to be accessed at any time. The presence of the ventilation slit placed above the lintel allows to reduce the load in the middle.”
We couldn’t leave without at least driving through the streets of the medieval town of Pietragalla, and of course, we fell in love. Even though it was hot and we had planned to head home, we got out to walk around for a short while. It was eerily quiet but we found a cafe where we grabbed a drink while our kid played in a park across the street. Three Italian men later joined a table outside next to us and we all just sat there- listening to the church bells and the silence- it was really quite nice. There was an occasional glance or smile towards each other, but we all just enjoyed our drinks or afternoon caffé. This was such a charming town with its antique street lamps, mix of colorful homes and stone buildings, little pieces of wall art, phenomenal views, and a peaceful atmosphere complete with a sense of Italian pride felt deeply by all the Italian flags draped over balconies.
On our way home we saw signs for a waterfall and decided to check it out. We never made it to the waterfall before it got too dark, but instead discovered two beautiful hillside towns, a plethora of views of rolling farm fields, and a small delicious pizza joint where we talked with the locals and ended up buying cheap, unlabeled local wines (which are still sitting in our wine rack to this day). One of the things I distinctly still remember about this trip is the fact that we were able to see towns lit up at night. Before this point in time a curfew had been put in place because of the pandemic, but now the curfew had been pushed back even further to midnight letting us stay out later and not worry about getting back quickly. That meant enjoying the street lamps of hillside towns and cities lit up in the distance.
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Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!
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