What it is and where it is
There are such special places that in ancient times gave rise to fabulous legends. Heroes, gods, witches, monsters and prodigies continue to live on through the stones and the landscape, although there is no lack of scientific explanations about the morphology of the place. This is the case of a small corner of the territory of Giuggianello, a town in Puglia. It is a hill rich in large calcarenitic formations from the Miocene epoch, sculpted by wind and rain for millennia. But this place flies over science, imbued as it is with myths and legends. Just think of the name, which, in itself, is a whole program: we are on the Hill of the Maidens and Nymphs.
Why it is special
The hill is dotted with olive trees and large limestone blocks scattered among the grass. Some of them have a name and a history, but don't ignore the others: nothing is what it seems. In fact, let's start with them, the smaller rocks. There used to be only olive trees and grassland. An old woman lived here, inviting passers-by to answer a riddle. Whoever could do it would win a mother hen with seven golden chicks. Too bad the old woman was a witch and the riddle impossible. The unfortunate ones would end up being turned into stone, which an ogre would distribute down the hill. So yes, you have just passed through a field of lost souls!
Not to be missed
A legend, sure, yet some evidence of the old one remains. Look at one of the largest blocks. It is circular and quite flat, looking like a bed. Tradition has it that it was the witch's shelter. How do we know this? From its name, Lu Lettu te la Vec chia, meaning The Bed of the Old Woman. But turning passersby into stones was not her only pastime. The witch sometimes spun. See that cluster of rocks that looks like a mushroom on a stalk? Well, we say that today because we don't know what a spinning wheel looks like anymore, but the locals call these stones Lu Furticiddhu te la Vecchia, The Spindle of the Old Woman.
A bit of history
It is said, however, that she did not make this instrument. In fact, it seems that this block is the mythical "Oscillating Boulder of Hercules." The hero is said to have lifted a gigantic and extremely heavy boulder with extreme ease and thrown it behind his back, dropping it in such a way that even a child would be able to swing it with one finger. If you are wondering what Hercules has to do with our whole story, here you are. Look at this other monolith, low and long, ending in bangs, indeed, almost fingers. You see. This is the Foot of Hercules, or rather, the footprint he left when he passed over this earth.
By now there is only one thing left to explain: what do the maidens and nymphs of the hill have to do with Hercules and the witch? Eh, that's another story. Remember when I told you that nothing is as it seems? Centuries ago, young shepherds fell in love with some young and beautiful girls who danced on this hill. To meet them, they challenged them to the dance, but the girls were unsurpassed. Tenacious and in love, the boys still claimed their prize, but little did they know that their fate was now sealed: those they had challenged were nymphs, who punished their pride by turning them into olive trees.
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