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The Grattara's cave park and excursions in the pinewood

“There is a nativity scene that time neglects, with centenarians with child faces and limestone rocks crying in a stone shell, where the wind hissing in the cave spoke to the women, the oracle of an inhuman Old Lady…”.

With these words Marco Fragale describes Gratteri and that Cave in his lyrics , inspired by the mysterious legend of a fairytale old millennial that holds a source of the purest water. A place of a natural and ancient beauty, that enchants and makes everyone fall in love.

Placed at about 300 m from the village of Gratteri, just at the extreme slopes of the Pizzo di Pilo, over 1000 meters of altitude, from where you can embrace a panoramic landscape that words can’t describe, there raises a cave called “Grattara“, a name that probably gave the one to the village.

Passafiume in this regard writes “…that there is a crater of stone set in the center of the cave, shaped with wonderful natural art; this rock contains on the inside a sixteen feet high and ten wide basin, whose top is empty like a crater made by the constant dripping of water”.

The access to the spring consists of a small natural staircase built by man’s feet over thousands of years. In the sinuosity of its external cornices, which are inaccessible, where the “quercus ilex” (a holly oak) and the wild pistachio grow up spontaneously, thousands of swallows nest, which, with their lively cry, make the break of who visits the other one in spring more delightful.

During the winter, the sheep that graze in those surroundings, often find shelter there, especially when the north wind blows, while in summer it offers drinks to the flocks of pigeons that nest there.

You can get there from the plateau of St.Nicholas along a winding but predictable path which unfolds in the middle of a lush pine forest, up to the small massif called “Iazzu di vuoi” (oxen’s’ bedding) and from there through a small flat section to the cave.

The Grattara cave is an essential part of history and folklore, because in the legend it is the house of the Befana (“a vecchia strina“), the protagonist of an ancient fairy tale, which tells that the Befana had her own receptacle in this cave and that on the last night of the year, evanescent and invisible, she came down from the chimneys into the houses of the people from Gratteri to fill her stockings with gifts.

Grotta Grattara, grotta saracena
orecchio semi ovale di muschio e capelvenere
aperto nella roccia millenaria!
Bambino nel mirarti ebbi paura
e ti vredei la grotta del mistero.
Grotta Grattara, grotta saracena
orecchio semi ovale di muschio e capelvenere
aperto nella roccia millenaria
dammi ancor di quell’acqua che bevvi
nella tua fonte pietrosa
quando in te spense l’arsura
questo mio cuore assetato;
nella tua fonte che come un altare
d’una paganità semplice e snella
s’erge solenne fra le stalattiti!
Alla pietrosa fonte le innocenti
colombelle s’alternano e leggiere
dissetate, ritornano a l’azzurro.
Nel notturno silenzio e nel mistero
le buone fate, in mistico sussurro,
purissime colombe a piè leggero,
per le straduzze scendono e discende
nel freddoso gennaio la tremolante
vecchia che porta i doni ai più piccini.
Nel silenzio più cupo della notte
lesta li fa cader dentro i camini!
Poi ritorna alla grotta e si rintana:
ha freddo la vecchissima Befana.

(G. Ganci Battaglia, Recondite Armonie, Palermo 1930)

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