If Matera is the town of stone, Zungri (in Greek “rock”) is the village of rock. A memorable testimony to prehistoric man’s ability to “adapt” to his surrounding environment, shaping rock to create shelter. Zungri, an agricultural town in the province of Vibo Valencia, just a few kilometers from renowned places such as Tropea and Capo Vaticano, plays host to the Archaeological sites of Sbariati or Sbandati, a well-preserved rock settlement. Immersed in the unspoiled environment of the river valley of Malòpera, at 490 meters above sea level, it reveals the social model of the Basilian monks who arrived here from the East in the 12th century and remained for an additional two.
A story that lives on through the ages yet just a stone’s throw away from the present: a gateway to this ancestral world is in fact the Museo della Civiltà Rupestre e Contadine [Museum of Rock and Peasant Society], which houses, among other things, about 3,000 finds all relevant to the rock and peasant civilization of Zungri.
To reach the site, follow the road that descends towards the settlement from the plaza in front of the museum. A steep descent into the heart of history, discovering the customs and ways of life of the populations that have inhabited our territory while enjoying the peacefulness of this place and its extraordinary panorama.
Consisting of nearly 100 houses – the caves, excavated out of rock, are of various shapes and sizes, some one room, some two, and others even two-stories. The settlement – unique in Calabria – occupies an area of about 3000 square meters and according to scholars, it is an embryonic but effective example of urban rock dwelling: The housing modules are connected through internal links that forms a road system carved into rock, while the water of the three springs located at the lower part of the settlement was collected and channeled into interconnected tanks, wells and tubs and designated for different water uses. Even rainwater was not wasted as is demonstrated through the drainage system and collection of rainwater.
The caves, both circular and square, have vaulted or domed roofs with a hole in the center to allow for ventilation; others are equipped with circular or rectangular windows that overlook the road system or open onto the enchanting panorama of the valley. Inside, there are visible recesses in the walls, used for both bedding and furnishing.
Inhabited until more recent times, (they were also used during the World War as a shelter from the bombings), the rock dwellings were used for different purposes: cellars, animal shelters, agricultural transformation workshops, silos for the conservation of grains, processing areas and ovens. A precious treasure that shows how man has used his genius to adapt to an often impervious environment without disturbing it. A visit that will forever leave an impression on you!
After closing the gates of history and again making contact with reality, refresh yourself by drinking the mineral water that flows from the Zungri fountains and be ready to resume your trip. Destination? The Casa Baronale Pisani, on the border of Spilinga and Rombiolo, which is one of the last examples of a baronial house, built in 1935 and the only evidence of hydraulic mill erected at the meeting of the two moats of “Ciappetta e Simileo.”
If the curiosity and the desire to see new places wins out over fatigue, you can always visit the nearby Papaglionti Vecchio, a small ghost town that houses the remains of a Roman villa of the Augustan era.
Take special note: You can schedule a guided tour of the archaeological site. For information, please visit the Zungri Caves site here; qui