The first stop to start your adventurous tour to discover the origins of Gratteri is to find yourself in the Main Square in front of the Mother Church, where today, located in a small villa, a stone shell that would probably contain the most ancestral history of the ancient village “of the craters“.
According to ancient descriptions, in fact, Gratteri would take its name from some limestone craters 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.
Probably, in fact, the source of the square, called the Ninfa, could be linked in similarity and meaning to that of the Grotta Grattara, formed over the millennia by the perennial dripping of waters considered purgative and restorative and from which the town would probably take its name: “oppidum a Crater ob perennem stillantem aquam celebri dictum”(R. Pirri, op. cit., Vol.II, p. 829, Palermo 1644).
The Grattàra Cave is an integral part of the history and folklore of the place, because in legend it is the seat of the Befana (“a Vecchia Strina”), the protagonist of an ancient fairy tale. As the legend has it, in fact, in that fairytale cavern, a grim little woman guardian of the cave would reside, who on the last night of the year, evanescent and invisible, came down from the chimneys in the houses of the Gratteresi to fill the stockings with gifts for the little ones.
This ancient tale would be of significant anthropological interest 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 source 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 chthonic divinities which, according to the peoples ancient, were represented by Nymphs who embodied the spirit of the place: the “Genius Loci”.
Around that source 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 Grattara Park, at the origin of the toponym Gratteri.
It is accessed from the plateau of San Nicola along a winding but fairly practicable path that winds its way through 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, whose toponym probably contributed to giving the town its name.
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 on the inside a basin sixteen feet high and ten wide, the top of which is empty like a crater formed by the perennial dripping of water”(Passafiume B., op. cit., 1645).
Access to the source consists of a small natural staircase built by man’s feet over the millennia. In the crevices of its external cornices, which are inaccessible, in which the elk and wild pistachio grow spontaneously, swallows nest by the thousands, which with their garrulous way make the stop of those who visit each other in spring more delightful.
Climbing even higher, we will arrive at the extreme slopes of Pizzo di Pilo, at over 1000 meters above sea level, from where a panoramically indescribable landscape embraces.
For more details on the excursion and on the itinerary map, visit the following link: eventi.visitgratteri.com