La Palomba – Matera, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Matera, Italy

La Palomba

An abandoned quarry hides an open-air gallery of huge sculptures, some made from the rubble of 9/11.  

Strange sculptures are scattered within an old quarry, hidden from plain sight beneath a ceiling of open sky. Some form recognizable shapes, while others twist and bend into abstract figures. 

La Palomba, which means “The Dove” in English, is located just outside Matera, a popular tourist spot in Italy famous for its ancient town. Though the sculptures are right next to a main road, they’re easy to miss unless you know to look for them. The artwork is obscured from view, tucked out of sight in a defunct tuff quarry.

Cuts and slashes mar the quarry’s massive walls like scars leftover from previous stone extractions; a visual reminder of the environment’s past use. After it became abandoned, trees and bushes began creeping back into the space as nature tried to strengthen its claim on the spot. In recent years, it’s started to look like bits of metal, steel, and limestone have sprouted up alongside the encroaching flora, too. 

In 2013, a world-famous sculptor named Antonio Paradiso held an exhibit in the quarry that brought new life to the space. After that closed, the quarry was transformed into an open-space sculpture park containing a permanent exhibition that showcases the artist’s various works. The park also organizes temporary exhibitions and other events.

Probably the most intriguing works on display are those made out of 20 tons of twisted metal, steel girders, and bars that were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11. Antonio Paradiso was selected as the only Italian artist among the 9,000 artists who applied for the permission and opportunity to turn parts of the destroyed World Trade Center into art. He got the chance to personally choose which elements he used. 

Know Before You Go

Entrance is free and the park is constantly open. There are a few parking places right next to the main entrance, and the place is not as frequently visited as other tourist attractions in the vicinity.