Parco Urbano dei Palmenti in Pietragalla, Italy

In the region of Basilicata stands Pietragalla, a small town that houses Parco Urbano dei Palmenti, a cluster of semi-underground structures for winemaking built from the 19th century onward. In the Tofi area bordering on the town, about 250 palmenti were built over many years.

They were built using excavated rock, which allowed the structures to keep the internal temperatures almost constant, allowing the farmers to work without being overly affected by the heat or cold. Furthermore, the ventilation of the environment was ensured by the entryway and a small opening in the facade, while the roof of the palmenti was waterproofed using turf.

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. The the must, young wine obtained from the pressing, ended up in the lower tank, where it fermented. Finally, there was the circulation tank where the wine was collected and poured into the barrels, which were made by hand.

The barrels were eventually carried to the rutte, caves dug with pickaxes. 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 distributed in the area. Today, it is possible to learn about the history of the palmenti and rutte thanks to the Pro loco of Pietragalla, which offers guided tours.

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