Park of the Grattara Cave and the Fountain of the Ninfa
The first step to start your adventurous tour to discover the original Gratteri is the Main Square, which is located in front of the Mother Church. Here, placed in a small villa, there is a stone shell that probably contains the most ancestral history of the ancient “crater” village.
According to ancient descriptions, in fact, Gratteri would take its name from some craters of limestone rocks present in its territory such as that of the Grattàra Cave. These are leaps and cliffs strongly marked by phenomena of karst origin that have given rise to both epigean forms (polje, doline, sinkholes) and hypogea (Ciacca abyss, Puraccia well, Panni cave, Cula cave, Fonda cave, Stefàna cave, Grattàra cave), relevant from a geological and speleological point of view.
The square’s fountain, called of the Ninfa, is probably connected in similarity and meaning to that of the Grotta Grattàra, created over the millennia by the perennial dripping of waters considered purgative and restorative and from which the town would probably take the name: “oppidum a Cratere ob perennem stillantem aquam celebri dictum” (R. Pirri, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 829, Palermo 1644).
Grotta Grattàra is an integral part of the history and folklore of the place, because as legend has it, it is the home of the Befana (‘a Vecchia Strina’), the protagonist of a very old fairy tale. According to the legend, in fact, in that fairy-tale cave would reside a solitary, grimy little woman, guardian of the cave, who on the last night of the year, evanescent and invisible, would descend from the chimneys into the homes of the people of Grattàra to fill their stockings with gifts for the little ones.
This ancient tale holds a very important anthropological meaning, since it would be linked to the ritual exchange of gifts, masks and rites of passage during the winter period to re-establish the cycle of the year and with it the life of the community itself.
The legendary presence of a female entity, guardian of a cave, and of a spring of regenerating water, would in fact refer to the symbolic horizon of a millenary myth that could be linked to a primordial place of indigenous worship of Cetonian deities who, according to ancient peoples, were represented by nymphs who embodied the spirit of the place: the ‘Genius Loci‘.
Around that spring we will then tell you a popular story, that of a local virgin who was left to die for being represented naked in stone. In fact, it is said that in the past this fountain was surmounted by a Nymph, a statue of a completely naked woman who made water gush from her breasts.
Later, crossing the town, we will walk towards the Grotta Grattàra Park, at the origins of the toponym Gratteri.
It is accessed from the plateau of San Nicola along a winding but fairly practicable path that spreads in a serpentine in the middle of a lush pine forest, up to the small massif called “lazzu di voi” (oxen bed) and from there, for a small flat stretch, you arrive at the Grattàra Cave located about 300 m from the town of Gratteri.
In this regard, the historian Passafiume in the century. XVII wrote “…that there is a stone crater, located in the center of the cave, shaped with splendid natural art; this boulder has an internal part of a basin sixteen feet high and ten wide, the top of which is empty like a crater formed by the perennial dripping of the waters” (Passafiume B., op. cit., 1645).
Access to the spring is via a small natural staircase built by human feet over millennia. In the crevices of its inaccessible outer ledges, where elm and wild pistachio trees grow wild, thousands of swallows nest, whose garrulous voices makes a visit to the spring even more delightful.
Climbing even higher, we arrive at the extreme slopes of Pizzo di Pilo, at an altitude of over 1,000 metres, from where we embrace a panorama that is indescribably beautiful.
Find out more details on excursions and itineraries on Visit Gratteri.