Fornello Sutainable Preservation Project

Location: Altamura, Bari, Italy

July 23, 2018 to August 3, 2018

Session dates: 
July 23rd to August 3rd

Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Flyer: PDF icon fornello_brochure_2017_aia_1.pdf

Discount for AIA members: 
5% discount for AIA members

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified


Project Director:

Tonio Creanza

Project Description

Fornello is a site made up of a Byzantine fresco cave, 12 additional cave dwellings and evidence of a settlement dating to the 3rd century B.C. The ancient settlement includes a shepherd's house that dates to the 1700's and dry-stone courtyards that outline a pre-existing sheep farm. It is one of the most interesting and historically important sites in the Murgia region of Puglia. The frescoes are comprised of three layers that date to 1100, 1200, and 1350. The fresco paintings document a link and a time in history when Byzantine communities spreading from the Balkans were establishing themselves in Puglia in the rupestral settlement.

The ancient cave site of Fornello is located east of the town of Altamura, in Puglia region, Italy. The future goal for the site is to create a sustainable conservation model through the complete restoration of the historical landscape, highlighting the importance of the site by converging interests, energies and actions toward the preservation of the original settlement as well as promoting sustainable living practices. 

The aim is to restore the site to the point in which it can function as its original settlement: as cave dwellings, a place of congregation, wine storage, milk collection- cheese making and cheese cave aging. Once restored, local shepherds will be offered the site to use as their own as a milk collective and caves to age their cheeses. 

We will restore the original rain water collecting system of the site and, ultimately, introduce renewable energy-based utilities. Work will be carried out to recover and preserve the Byzantine frescoes located in the site's rupestral cave church. Through the restoration process and archaeological surveys and investigations, the projects aims to offer educational activities and research opportunities. 

Finally, the project aims to support and promote the local agro-pastoral community, the history and the heritage of the local food culture practices, strongly bound to the geomorphological characteristics and climate of the region. Through hands-on activities, educational workshops and lectures of food anthropology and history of biodiversity related to the production of  cheese,  bread and wine, the site will offer the opportunity of experiencing a sustainable way of life. 

WORKSHOP 2018: Throughout the course of the 2018 workshop session, we will work to stabilize cave entrances and the natural skylights made by the original inhabitants of the rupestral site of Fornello using natural material as tufa blocks and lime base mortar. Participants will learn the art of dry-stone-wall techniques to reconstruct the site's stone walls. You will be introduced to the practices of fresco restoration and the history of Byzantine frescoes. We will work to clear caves and landscape of brush and rock debris. During the work session participants will be given instruction  on archeological methods, techniques and documentation while operating in an historical site.

Activities also nclude:

  • Make typical cheeses of Puglia: Pecorino, Ricotta., Mozzarella and Scamorza.
  • Walk to pasture with the shepherd and his flock and make a traditional shepherds lunch in the field to share together. 
  • Visit the Unesco World Heritage Site of Sassi di Matera for a walking tour and art exhibition of writer and artist Carlo Levi who wrote the book Christ Stopped at Eboli. 
  • Visit the town of Altamura, famous for its bread, for a architectural tour of the historic centre.
  • Visit Valle d'Itria and spending an afternoon at the beach of a coastal town.
  • Visit the archeological sites of Botromagno or Metapontum.
  • Informal Italian language classes.

Period(s) of Occupation: 3rd Century B.C. - 1700'

Sustainable historical site preservation Byzantine fresco art conservation and restoration Archeological research Food anthropology

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: full session

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
No previous experience, nor prerequisites required.

Room and Board Arrangements

Our workshop home is in a 15th-century building in the small southern town of Gravina in Puglia. The town, built of golden tufa stone, crops up over a thread of rupestrian dwellings and ravine that winds towards open wheat fields and the sounds of evening swallows.

With its ancient roots in the Peucetii culture and its position on the Appian way from Rome to the Mediterranean sea, Gravina is dense with history, archaeology and the arts. Emperor Frederick II chose the surrounding plateaus as his personal hunting grounds, referring to the area as “Grana dat et Vina”- meaning the land of wheat and wine.

An hour inland from the Adriatic coast and neighbour to the Unesco World Heritage site of Matera, Gravina has been ruled through history by the  Byzantines, Lombards, Normans, Swabians and North Africans and one of its native residents Vincenzo Maria Orsini, went on to become the Pope Benedict XIII.

Expect traditional dishes made by our boisterous and feisty cook Rosanna, join her in the kitchen anytime for authentic Puglian recipes inspiration. Meals will be in the field, dining room, in the courtyard with a movie or Italian language class, or local restaurants.

Workshop fee 1650 EUR Fee includes: accommodation in shared bedroom, transportation to and from the Bari airport or train station on arrival and departure days to Masseria La Selva, meals and wine, entrance fees to museums and sites. Fee does not include: airfare, personal health and travel insurance, and personal expenses.

Academic Credit

Number of credits offered: none


Contact Information
Tonio Creanza
4230 Prince Edward street
British Columbia
+1 604-618-8449