Italy
Matera

Here you’ll find travel reports about Matera. Discover travel destinations in Italy of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

12 travelers at this place:

  • Day54

    Matera

    May 31, 2017 in Italy

    This place.. is such a beauty. Our rough guide (thanks Richard and Nia!) describes it as one of the south's most fascinating cities. It is where Mel Gibson filmed the Passion of the Christ and you can see why it was such a fitting setting. We both wish we could have more time here as one day is definitely not enough to appreciate it all. The apartment that we are staying in is also quite a luxury! There is a four poster bed and a fab shower. Good old Airbnb! When we arrived the hostess showed us exactly where to head to and where to eat.

    According to the local leaflet, Matera is one of the oldest towns in the world, dating back around 7,000 years.. Matera has two 'Sassi', which are two districts made up of two sets of dwellings. The original cave dwellings date back to the early 18th century, the "Sasso Caveoso" and were lived in by "peasants". We visited one of these cave dwellings which were really pretty cool, also literally pretty cool as it was super warm here today.

    After WWII they moved the people into newly built dwellings which are in the second "Sasso Barisano". These were built in a sympathetic style and the overall effect looks amazing.

    Tonight we ate some regional food in a cave restaurant and it was really good and of course really filling. Luckily the lady here stocked up with tea bags, so just chilling with a cuppa, you can take the girl out of Guernsey...

    Matera is another UNESCO world heritage site so currently feeling very cultured ;D Off to Bari and the overnight ferry to Dubrovnik tomorrow, will catch up next from Croatia x
    Read more

  • Day361

    Day 362: The Sassi of Matera

    February 11 in Italy

    Time to explore the local world heritage site! Matera is famous for its Sassi, or cave dwellings, that have been used more or less continually since the bronze age around 9000 years ago. These days the main city sits on a plateau (where we were staying), but just nearby is a couple of canyons with a whole bunch of caves cut into them. These caves were used as peasant dwellings, right up until the 1950s. Quite interesting, so off we went.

    Wandered down to the main area and started filming. Went inside one cave that's now a museum showing life as it was in the early 20th century. Basically everything happened in the caves - living, working, sleeping, and many professions like barbers, tailors, butchers, healers, and even professional mourners! Though the majority of the occupants were peasants and worked in fields nearby, they often kept their animals in the caves too.

    It's hard to imagine that even after World War 2 in a first world country like Italy, people still lived in caves amongst animals and with no running water, sanitation or electricity (or maybe a single light bulb). In the 50s it was declared a national disgrace, and a program of forced removals was undertaken, where people were moved to new housing nearby, closer to their fields. But of course they lost their communities in the process, and over time many people came back.

    And of course, in the 80s and 90s - gentrification happened. Nowadays many of the Sassi caves are occupied by fancy BnBs and hotels, along with cute restaurants and the usual trinket shops. Though there's still a large area where most of the caves are empty and barren.

    One of our favourite spots was a church dug entirely into the rock. It's an example of "negative architecture" - ie, it's got the typical features of a church like columns, domed ceilings, frescoes, ornate stonework etc - but it's all been cut out of the existing rock, rather than shaped and stuck together. It was quite large and very impressive!

    This was where Mel Gibson had filmed The Passion of the Christ, and the town has such an ancient feel to it that's been used as a Jerusalem set many times, including the 2016 Ben-Hur remake, the aforementioned Passion, and The Gospel According to Matthew, a famous Italian film from the 1960s.

    Had a great lunch at a small location restaurant - delicious antipasti including the nicest eggplant I've ever had, a pasta dish, then a thick stew/soup for second, followed by fruit and coffee. All local style and local produce too which was great.

    Spent a couple more hours wandering and filming before wrapping up and heading home for the day, satisfied with our visit. We both really enjoyed the site, it was something very different and not overrun with tourists either. Spent the rest of the afternoon at home doing various things - I finally got back into doing videos which I've been very slack about. My first video since we left Germany, though I've still got several weeks of content scheduled on YouTube!
    Read more

  • Day56

    Matera

    January 7 in Italy

    Magical Matera

    None of us want to write this post for Matera as not one of us can think of words to string together to give an idea of what is Matera. Words escaped us when we walked out of our accommodation, turned left for 8 steps, and were faced with old Matera rising before us. We gasped, we exclaimed, and we sighed. It was like being transported back to biblical times. Indeed, Matera has been continuously occupied by humans for over 9000 years, making it the second oldest, after another in Jordan. Looking around us, it is no wonder that Matera was used in the set of many films like Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ and the latest Wonder Woman movie. We had a look at the scenes from those films, and that is exactly as we see Matera.

    I am referring to the sassi, literally meaning stones, the old district of Matera that is a series of caves carved into one side of a deep gorge. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, these caves have been adapted, redug, extended and built over, through millennia. After the Middle Ages, they were only used for animals, olive oil press and storage. It was lived in again by impoverished peasants who were forced out of their land by a failed feudal system. Living conditions were so deplorable as families of up to 11 lived together with livestock in a small damp airless cave room. In the 1950s, infant mortality on the Sassi was over 44%. Carlo Levi described it as the Inferno of Dante's Divine Comedy. Embarrassed by publicity of this plight, the Italian government relocated the population of the sassi in the 1950s. Abandoned, the sassi then fell into greater disrepair. It is now in the process of being restored and revived, even gentrified, especially after being named cultural capital of Europe for 2019.

    It was Epiphany yesterday, and the centre of the new town was thronging with tourists from other Italy. Some made their way to the sassi, but kept mainly to the few landmark Rupestrian churches and cave museums. We tried to explore further into Sassi Caveoso, the older uninhabited sassi, but much is inaccessible or blocked off.

    Standing at the many lookouts, is to stare at time, past, present and future, all at once. One can see across the gorge to Parco Murgia and it's many ancient caves. It is what the sassi would have started as all those 9000 years ago. On our side of the gorge, there is still much evidence of the old squalid caves before the government evacuation, and the promise of what will be a thriving tourist centre, especially after 2019. We can even see a building crane, most out of place amidst this ancient scene. Abandoned dingy caves neighbour renovated ones of glitzy restaurants, bed and breakfast accommodations, and souvenir shops. We will be so happy for Matera to prosper after it's tough history, and feel extremely privileged to experience it as it is now, the undiscovered gem that is magical Matera.
    Read more

  • Day57

    In the past 3 days in Matera, the awesomes have been investigating and planning a way to get to the other side of the gorge. On Day 1, whist visiting St Peters church, 3 of us saw Ruby being led through a door at the back of the church by an old man. We quickly followed as we feared that Ruby was being abducted, but were shown to a balcony with the most magnificent view of the gorge, the Sassi, and the old caves across the gorge. The old man, the registrar of the church, then offered to drive us to the other side, but not till after the weekend as it was the Epiphany and he was busy. Without speaking a word of English, he was able to make arrangements of the time 930am on Monday to take us. We weren't sure what to make of this offer or whether we understood right.

    Kai excitedly discovered a bridge across only to find that it was closed and undergoing repairs. Spotting some people jumping the blockade to get on the bridge, we kept that plan in mind as a last resort.
    Day 2 we found a manned tourist information, (that can be quite difficult to find in small towns) but they were as helpful as a screen door on a submarine. Asking if there was a guide that could take us, the only answer was NO. Best answer was get a taxi. They had not said how we would get back once the taxi dropped us off.

    Ruby found information about a park guide that could take us on a hike. So heading to the tourist information again with the new found information to see if they could help arrange it for us, the answer was NO.

    We then found a phone number of a guide, what'sapp the guide but was not successful as they said a hike was not a good idea because it was forecasted to rain.

    We were left with jumping the blockade or going with Ruby's old man.

    Taking the chance that old man remembers our arrangement, we set off to St Peter's this morning. Lo and behold, he was there and we set off with his Italian and my Google translate.

    His name turns out to be Rocco and he works in Peter's church. Made me giggle as "upon this rock I will build my church" has rock working for it.

    He was lovely. Armed with a torch, he took us to remote, off the beaten track Rupestrian churches and abandoned grottos. Even walked us through inter connecting caves. Showed us film sets and took us to the lit Presepe that we can see from the lookout at our accommodation in the evening. He even showed us where they filmed the crucifixion in Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ.

    He was agile and fit as he led us through the mountain side and navigated rough uneven terrain. We were impressed to learn that he is 73 years of age. He was raised in the Sassi and left when he was 10 years. Like the statistics we learnt about infant mortality, he also lost 2 of his 3 siblings.

    After taking us around for 2 hours, he invited us back into the church and presented us with a translated book about the history of his church. He even offered to drive us to our next accommodation in Ostuni, 70km away, and visit the Trulli town of Alberobello along the way. We had already booked a guide for the day, and had to decline his very generous offer. When it was time to leave, with tears in his eyes, he said that he was fortunate to have met us. What a lovely,wonderful man. How blessed we are to have another angel along our journey of Italy.
    Read more

  • Day6

    Matera

    July 1, 2016 in Italy

    Po Italiji kar mrgoli krajev, v katerih se počutite, kot da bi stopili naravnost v kak film – obstaja pa en kraj, ki vas popelje v čas zgodnjih kristjanov in celo prazgodovine – to je Matera. In to je naša današnja destinacija. 78 km iz Monopolija, dobro uro vožnje in prispemo sem.

    Mestece, ki leži v južni pokrajini Basilicata, ni na ustaljeni turistični poti, je pa nedvomno eden od tistih skritih biserov, ki ga je vredno obiskati.

    S svojimi jamskimi bivališči ("sassi"), vklesanimi v apnenčasto pobočje in lego nad reko Gravino je Matera eno od tistih italijanskih mest, ki jih je čas pozabil. Nanjo se spomnijo samo filmarji in turisti, ki iščejo "nekaj drugačnega".

    "Podzemno mesto" (Città Sotterranea), kot mu pravijo, je razvoj 19. in 20. stoletja povsem zaobšel, Carlo Levi pa ga je v svoji sloviti knjigi Kristus se je ustavil v Eboliju (1945) označil za enega najbolj "zaostalih" v Italiji. Matera je še do nedavnega ostala tako primitivna, da je služila kot popolna dvojnica za starodavni Jeruzalem.

    Mel Gibson je v Materi snemal Kristusov pasijon, nazadnje pa je mesto služilo kot kulisa za najnovejšo predelavo Bena Hura. Mimogrede, v priljubljeni taverni Trattoria Lucana na glavni ulici, Vii Lucani, lahko jeste testenine "fettucine alla Mel Gibson", poimenovane v čast slavnemu igralcu. Ne bomo šli tja :), raje bomo same raziskali lokalne trattorie, buffe itd...nekaj smo ob prvem ogledu že oddelali, poskusili juho iz Materska kruha, itd....tukaj življenje teče drugače, bolj počasi...

    Matera sta v bistvu dva kraja v enem – živahno, moderno mesto z restavracijami, hoteli, trgovinami in muzeji, ter Sassi, stari del z jamami, ki so bile prvič poseljene pred približno 9.000 leti, kot ocenjujejo. Baje da jame do prihoda Mussolinija na oblast niso imele elektrike, so pa bile nagnetene z ljudmi, ki so v njih živeli kar skupaj z živino. Po vojni so prebivalce preselili, večina "sassijev" pa je ostala praznih.

    A danes je v jamah ponovno živahno, saj je simpatično, neokrnjeno Matero odkrila nova generacija podjetnih malih podjetnikov, gostincev in hotelirjev, ki so nekatere od "sassijev" spremenili v luskuzna domovanja in ateljeje v jamah ponovno živahno.

    Del teksta sem si sicer sposodil iz članka o Materi, ki sem ga našel na stricu Googlu, ker sem malo spil :), v bistvu je pa točno tako.

    Splača se videt, res je zanimivo, res je lepo, res je kul....malo počitka in še na večerni gir...jutri pa Amalfi coast.
    Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Matera, マテーラ, Materia, Матера

Join us:

FindPenguins for iOS FindPenguins for Android

Sign up now