Fornello Sustainable Preservation Project

July 23rd – August 3rd 2018

Fieldwork, study, research and hands-on cultural landscape conservation and restoration.

Fornello is a site made up of a Byzantine fresco cave, twelve additional cave dwellings, and evidence of a settlement dating back to the 3rd century B.C.


The ancient settlement includes a shepherd’s house that dates to the 1700s 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 rupestrian settlement.

Program Contents

The Fornello Sustainable Preservation Project focuses on the site in its early days of research and cultural landscape conservation. The program is an opportunity to experience and learn a wide spectrum of elements and aspects involved in cultural heritage preservation. The workshop also stimulates conversations and ideas around sustainable preservation, aiming towards a positive impact of these programs on local communities.

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 rupestrian site of Fornello using natural material as tufa blocks and lime base mortar;  
  • build the wood shelves and the door of the cheese aging cave;
  • reconstruct and restore the dry-stone-wall of the site;
  • introduction to the practices of fresco restoration and the history of Byzantine frescoes;
  • clear caves and landscape of brush and rock debris. 


During the sessions, participants will be given instruction on archeological methods, techniques, and documentation while operating in a historical site.

On-site activities are essential to the conservation plan and integrate the local shepherds’ community sharing their knowledge and expertise of cheese making.

The workshop includes excursions and visits to historical sites, town and museums of the region to learn and understand the local history and culture.

Lectures, demos, and guided visits are conducted in English and guest lecturers may be translated into English.

Our Mission

The ancient cave site of Fornello (3rd c. B.C.) is located east of the town of Altamura, in Puglia, Italy. The future goal for the site of Fornello is to create a sustainable conservation model through the restoration of the historical 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.

The project aims also to restore the original rainwater 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 rupestrian cave church. Through the restoration process and archaeological surveys and investigations, the project offers educational/study activities and research opportunities.

Finally, the project contributes 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 on 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.
Learn more about the overall project here.

Get updates on workshops, projects and events