Graphic from the IGCP
project 437 Puglia 2003
International Geological Correlation Project
Directly to the east of the Campania region of Italy
is the region of Puglia (Apulia) with a very diverse
set of geological features. One of these features is called the Murgia,
a rectangular plateau inland
from the town of Bari (image, right).
The name murgia is from the Latin murex,
meaning "sharp stone". The Murgia plateau covers
a surface of about 4,000
km²/1545 miles², bordered
by the Ofanto river and the Tavoliere [tableland]
delle Puglie on the north, the Adriatic Sea on
the northeast, by the Messapic depression, which
separates the province of Bari from the Salento
peninsula (the "heel" of the boot) on the south, and by
the Apennine mountain range on the west, separating the
entire region of Puglia from Campania. The Murgia
is usually divided into Alta (high) Murgia, with
poorer vegetation, and Bassa (low) Murgia, with more
fertile land, prevalently cultivated with olives. The
rocks are mostly composed of cretaceous limestone, so
that karst landscapes
prevail in the area, including sinkholes, and caves.
The monotony of the
Puglia coastal landscape near Bari is broken by a
drainage network characterized by shallow gullies, locally called lame
(singular: lama). They are eroded
by rainwater and flow down from
the mountains and channel the water into the Adriatic.
Some lama environments may actually be a confluence of
various smaller gullies as they flow to the sea. Such
is the case at the
town of Monòpoli,
just south of Bari.
[There are only two things certain about the name of the town, Monòpoli: 1-It has nothing to do with the economic term; 2-It is not the name of an ancient Greek board game. All other options are still open. No one knows.]
The “Belvedere lama" was originally the name of a farm/estate higher up where the gully started. It was probably just a shallow depression initially, just enough to attract a bit of so-called "overland flow", the loose unchanneled water on the surface. Then there was another and another —more like soggy footprints than an actual flow of water as they picked their way down the hillside. Over the centuries, though, its adds up to a beaten path of erratic regularity as they wear down the same track —sometimes on the surface, sometimes moving beneath the surface (which then may or may not collapse). In the case of Monòpoli, the green paths shown in the image (left) are a network of different 'pluvial gullies' running beneath the town to the sea. The largest of these is the Ferraricchio. All four of these gullies, as well as a few smaller ones not shown, are now collectively called the Lama Belvedere. As they approach the sea, they stay beneath the limestone surface and finally open onto the beach.
From the sea, those openings may resemble coastal sea grottoes, but instead of being formed by the sea and containing salt water, the gullies were formed by fresh water and have brought with them from the hills their own fertile ecosystem. In the otherwise arid landscape of Puglia the gullies are fertile, as shown by the ample flora that they nourish. They made good caves for cave-dwellers, and along the length of the 'lamas' there are signs of ancient habitation, especially at the large outlets near the sea (image right).
The Ferraricchio was so
large and erratic as it approached the port of Monopoli
that it was potentially dangerous in terms of the
stability of adjacent property and buildings on the
surface. Thus, little by little, in the early years of
the 20th century, the meandering Ferraricchio
was straightened and shored up from within, essentially
turning it into a one-kilometer tunnel beneath Monopoli
to the sea. The channel then served as an outlet for
flood waters and even as an air-raid shelter in WWII,
when at times there were as many as 3,000 persons
sheltered within. The Lama Belvedere Urban Park of
Monòpoli is now a reality, protected green areas (image,
left) totaling about 12 hectares (30 acres); fed by this underlying system
of irrigation, these patches appear at various
places and incorporate unique features of this fertile
ecosystem into the urban fabric of the city.