Murge, the “sea of stone”. A land whose riches are the space as interminable as a passion. But the Murge only constitute a desert for visitors who are not familiar with its extraordinary variety of life forms. Overhead one can follow the birds of prey that circle in the search for food (small reptiles, rodents or crickets); and in its expanses, green in the winter and ochre in the summer, blossom dozens of vegetable species of fluorescent colours.
The Karst territory of this area suddenly opens out onto the dolinas, like the Gurgo dolina, in the vicinity of Andria. Grottos have formed in these abysses many of which were inhabited by prehistoric men.
In ancient times, the Murge were covered by forests of oaks, now reduced to small and precious woods like the one of Corato or the bosco di Acquatetta near Minervino. One can search for fruit and blackberries under the cover of foliage. The municipalities of Spinazzola, Minervino, Corato and Andria are part of the Alta Murgia National Park, the first ever rural park in Italy. In these areas one can admire landscapes of indefinite horizon, rough and rugged outcrops furrowed by marshes and small canyons. An impressive sight is the Rocca del Garagnone (near Spinazzola).
The hill-top and ancient castle of Frederick II is now in ruins. To the visitor, however, the castle bestows the hill with a particularly suggestive image of a “stone cathedral”, like the one of Monument Valley. Naturally, it is practically impossible to tour the area and not notice the white hump of Castel del Monte. This castle, perfect and mysterious, is surrounded by a spiral of pines that climb right up to the top of the hill on which it stands. This is Frederick’s masterpiece and a view extending to Gargano can be admired from its windows. Wandering along the Murge paths, as enjoyed by the English naturalist Jennyfer Ann Walter, who wrote a lengthy and poetic Diary of the Murgia hills, (published in Italy by Adda, Bari) one can still encounter herds of oxen and sheep and horse-riders, and purchase cheese products directly from producers met at the many farms and farm holiday centres.