By the way, even though we are now well away from the trullo region, we are now seeing more and more ancient forms of trulli... cone shaped piles of rock burial tombs, and stone dwellings with stepped dome shapes (less pointed than a trullo). All very old and ancient--their stones weathered and lichen covered. The dwellings are obvious--they are taller. The tombs are often fairly low to the ground and clustered together.
There are also other types of ruins commonly seen in this area of Italy. The Poste--surrounded on all sides by dry laid stone walls--were used for centuries by shepherds to protect their flocks from predators and weather. The other type is called the Jazzo (jazzi, plural), for sheep farms. It's a good thing that this area is a national park which protects these treasures. The sad thing is that some species are endangered or have disappeared altogether... like the Egyptian Vulture.
We then drove to the other side of Altamura... out into the Alta Murgia, the gently rolling plateau where I surprised Lucas with the gigantic Altamura Sinkhole. (Lucas had become quite the sinkhole expert after a recent science fair.) We were all shocked at the vastness of the thing as we pulled up to the rim of the ancient crater. It was about half a mile wide and about 500 feet deep. It collapsed thousands of years ago and provided homes to primitive man in the caves just under its rim. The reason it collapsed is the structure of the Murgia itself. This is a karst region, geologically speaking. That means the limestone structure underground is filled with caves, many sometimes collapse causing a sinkhole. We were all amazed. Lucas and I decided to roll a boulder down and see if we could hit the bottom. It stopped halfway down on a ledge... and I threw a muscle lobbing it in.
One more thing. Today I finally saw my first hoopoe bird close-up... a woodpecker sort of bird with long tail, curved beak and a flashy comb on top of his head. When they fly all you see is a flash of black and white and that crazy comb. The Alta Murgia National Park is one of the little known wonders in Italy--a nature lover's delight. You see, there's a lot more to Italy besides the Leaning Tower, gondolas or the Trevi Fountain. A whole lot more. I've fallen in love with the Natura d'Italia.
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