Soleto stone is rugged limestone, quarried mainly in the municipality of Soleto, located in the Salento region of Apulia, Italy, from historic quarries dating back to the early 20th century.
Soleto is a small town in the heart of the Salento peninsula. Its name Soleto probably already recalls an ancient vocation for stone-working. The name Soleto is commonly derived from syllithos, which in Greek means paved place.
Uses of Soleto Stone
This stone suits renovating farms and historical buildings or constructing traditional artefacts.
The most characteristic paving is the basolato, used for centuries to pave the magnificent historic centres of Salento, including Lecce.
The original quarrying activity was carried out mainly by a man using very few mechanical means. The excavation was mainly carried out by the so-called cavamonti, whose role consisted of freeing the rock from its context so that it could be worked by hand. Since the 1950s, Soleto stone has been extracted using mechanical machines (excavators) in open quarries. Subsequently, mechanisation concerned the extraction phase and subsequent processing by introducing dedicated and numerically controlled machines.
Scarcity of Soleto Stone
Over time, increasingly intense exploitation of the quarrying sites, due to the technical contribution and an increase in demand, led to a slow but gradual reduction in the number of extraction possibilities. This is because the increase in technical production has not been matched by an increase in the number of quarrying sites since the Soleto stone is confined to a restricted area that does not allow the quantity of material extracted to be adjusted to the increase in demand, thus leading to an intensification of existing products but also to a rapid exhaustion of the existing quarries, since new quarrying sites cannot easily be found.
Therefore, its economic production core is somewhat critical due to the scarcity of raw materials. As of 2022, there is only one surviving quarry.
The uniqueness of Soleto stone derives not only from its intrinsic characteristics, such as colour, grain, texture, compactness and strength but also from the relative scarcity of the raw material, which is challenging to find and extract.
Indeed, Soleto limestone, a substitute for marble and granite, is distinguished from other hard stone materials in Apulia by its morphological variability, which makes each piece unique. It offers shades of different colours, veining and mineralisation that break up the monotony of the artefact, whether it be small elements or large surfaces.
Thanks to its workability characteristics, it lends itself to many uses: from urban design to interior and exterior architecture, from craftwork to urban and architectural restoration. Using computerised, numerically controlled processing techniques makes it possible to obtain washbasins, shower trays and other furnishing elements.
Its high impermeability and particular resistance to chlorine and various atmospheric agents make it suitable for coverings, edges and footings of swimming pools and fountains.