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Whether you're ecclesiastically inclined or otherwise, southern Italy offers a host of religious sites worth seeing.From Apulia's holy sites, many constructed over a thousand years ago, emerge the libretto of the region's operatic past.The story of the hilltop church, built around a natural grotto, begins in the early fifth century, when the region was ruled by the Lombards and was transitioning from pagan practices to Christianity.Today, more than 3 million pilgrims pray at the site each year, creating a sense of continuity and sacred flow in the ancient space.Everything except a massive marble altar was looted from the church during years of abandonment.The church was built around a cave likely used as a natural hermitage by early Christian monks. The medieval church, retrofitted in the 17th century, houses a massive library with some 100,000 volumes.The town of San Giovanni Rotondo has become a place of devotion and piety in the past hundred years after a mystic priest, Father Pio, appeared in 1916 .Father Pio, was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002 just 34 years after his death in 1968 .Whetherone believes in the sanctity of Father Pio is, ultimately, of little importance.
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