Parco Urbano dei Palmenti - Gastro Obscura

Parco Urbano dei Palmenti

Pietragalla, Italy

Though they look like Hobbit houses, these semi-underground stone structures were built for winemaking. 

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In the region of Basilicata stands Pietragalla, a small town that houses Parco Urbano dei Palmenti. Inside this park you’ll find a cluster of semi-underground structures built for winemaking. In the Tofi area that borders the town, about 250 palmenti were built starting in the 19th century.

These structures were built using excavated rock, which allowed them to keep near-constant internal temperatures, allowing the farmers to work without being overly affected by the heat or cold. Furthermore, ventilation was ensured by the entryway and a small opening in the facade, while a turf roof kept water out.

Inside each palmento there were several tanks. Harvested grapes were carried to the palmenti by donkeys and pressed, usually by women and children, in the most elevated tank. Must, or young wine obtained from the pressing, ended up in the lower tank, where it fermented. Finally, there was a circulation tank where wine was collected and poured into handmade barrels.

The barrels were eventually carried to rutte, storage cellars dug into nearby caves. Children were often sent here to fill carafes or bottles and had to brave the ominous shadows projected by the lights of the candles, which never reached the bottom of the cellar. According to the land register of 1814, there were 130 cellars in Pietragalla. Today, it is possible to learn about the history of the palmenti and rutte thanks to the Proloco of Pietragalla, which offers guided tours of the area.

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