Italy
Provincia di Matera

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

30 travelers at this place:

  • Day230

    Masseria Radogna, Matera (with video!)

    February 11, 2017 in Italy

    We filmed a video from the Matera Ravine, to access it go to:
    https://youtu.be/_J85LSFqN_A

    The sun shone and the temperature had risen to 21°C as we continued north from Taranto and away from the coast. We came across whole fields of vines whose supporting trellises had collapsed upon them with what we presume was the weight of the unexpected snowfall nearly a month ago. A few fields were bare, with cut vines, trelis and netting balled up at the sides.

    The hilly terrain became stony and instead of crops we saw quarries and herds of sheep and goats. We'd singled out the area around Matera as worth a visit because of the unique 'Sassi' or rock dwellings in the area. The limestone had made it ideal for homes to be hewn into the rock and thousands of people lived in them, right up until the 1960s when 20, 000 were forcibly evicted in order to improve the health of the community.

    We were making a beeline towards a stopover in the town when we saw a sign for one that seemed to be in a rural location. We took a chance and turned round to head towards it. Arriving at an information centre, we were told their campsite was just a few hundred metres up the road at €10 a night. The area looked beautiful with scrubby grass, rock and dry stone walls all around, so we decided to stay. The person at the information centre was very helpful, giving us maps and after checking we didn't suffer from vertigo, showing us a route we could walk to Matera, through the ravine.

    Arriving at the campsite, we saw it had been a smallholding, and still had a couple of polytunnels, patches of lavender, rosemary, a few old red wheelbarrows lying about and some bee hives. Light bulbs were strung between the main house and a small stone built place of worship. There was a little building with old terracotta tiles on the roof that had been converted into toilets and the site was surrounded and intersected by dry stone walls. There was a peace about the place as the birds sang from the olive trees and we were very glad we had taken that chance!

    It was nearly dusk and so too late to walk to Matera. Instead, we took a stroll down the hill to explore some nearby Sassi. For the two of us to be able to just wander in and out of the caves at our own pace and by ourselves was a brilliant way to explore. We didn't know much about how the living arrangements were set up but our imaginations were fired up!

    Taking the recommended route to Matera, we cycled until the road ended, then began to walk along the narrow path worn into the grass. There were caves close to the path and after a while the deep Matera Ravine revealed itself, its steep sides pitted with caves. Some were natural, but most were enlarged to create Sassi. As we looked over to the town atop the opposite side, there was a mergence between houses carved out of rock and the same rock being used as the bricks in the houses above.

    Along the way we met a herd of cows with their traditional bells clanging loudly. We were amazed how well they traversed the precipitous slopes and were later told by the campsite manager that this breed were only 'pretend cows' who were really goats! They were also the source of the Caciocavallo cheese we had sitting in our fridge. Apparently the BBC had filmed their annual journey to the mountains as part of its Italy Unpacked documentary.

    After crossing the rope bridge strung accross the river and ascending the steep side we explored the streets and found a restaurant with tables outside to eat lunch and watch the tourists wandering by.

    Rejuvenated, we climbed higher to a spur of rock within Matera to look at one of the Sasso churches, a series of 3 large caves with archways and columns rising to support the roof which was stained green with copper oxide. The walls had been smoothed and plaster added to them so that frescoes could be painted, many of which were crumbling and faded now. There were electric uplights set in to the floor now but we could picture the candles that would have been flickering, warming and lighting the space when it was first brought into use.

    Our final stop was one of the Casa Grotte (house caves), a kind of living Sasso museum, set up as it would have been when it was in use. It had all the furniture, kitchen units, agricultural and clothes making tools and even photos of the people who used to live there displayed as they would have been on the dressing table. It felt really homely and made us think what a wrench the forced eviction must have been for all those thousands of people.

    We returned for a peaceful night at the campsite and set off the next day with Matera on our list of places to return to. There were so many interesting things that we hadn't seen and done but Italy us a large country and if we stayed as long as we wanted at each place, we probably spend a whole year, if not longer here!
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  • Day46

    Our next stop was going to be a lookout so we could get a full view of the Sassi di Matera from across the gully. However, due to poor directions, from me and the GPS, we actually turned too soon and ended up following a dirt road to the end which still gave us an great view of Matera, if it hadn't been so foggy and overcast. We had actually driven into the Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera, Parco della Murgia Materana. The park is a rocky highland littered with grottoes inhabited since the Paleolithic era, some that were transformed into rupestrian (rock-cut) churches in medieval times. It is a Unesco World Heritage site since 1993, and is also where Mel Gibson has shot the "Crucifixion" in the movie "The Passion of the Christ".

    There are about one hundred and fifty sites of worship that, in part, compose the Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera, and many are dispersed throughout the surrounding territory. The Park extends over 8000 hectares and is also the location of numerous housing allotments dating back to the Paleolithic Era.

    The church of the Madonna delle Vergini was located just a short walk from where the road ended. It is a small chapel that is the only one among the rock churches to still be open to worship and it is also the destination of a large pilgrimage on the last Sunday of May, on the occasion of the feast of the Virgin.

    It has a very simple masonry façade with five niches; in the upper part, rebuilt at the end of the last century, there is a larger niche that houses a statue of the Madonna with Child created by a local craftsman. The whole church has been carved into the rock and it would have been great to see but unfortunately it was closed.

    Wandering around the hillside and glimpsing temple remains below, walking through caves that were believed to be inhabited over 2.5 million years ago was pretty amazing. It was a brief stop but another one I enjoyed.
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  • Day46

    After another delicious breakfast of croissants and coffee we hit the road again. We had really enjoyed our stay in Altamura but were ready to see more.

    Today's weather was a bit overcast but there was also a layer of fog around that just wouldn't budge. When we arrived at Parco Scultura La Palomba it was still very foggy/misty (we really weren't sure which) at 10.45am. However that wasn't going to deter me from wandering around the quarry and climbing the hills to admire the piece of abstract sculpture on display here.

    Parco Sculture La Palomba is located in an abandoned quarry and is an open-air gallery of huge sculptures, some made from the rubble of 9/11. In 2013, a world-famous sculptor named Antonio Paradiso held an exhibit in the defunct quarry that brought new life to the space. After that closed, the quarry was transformed into an open-space sculpture park containing a permanent exhibition that showcases the artist’s various works. The park also organizes temporary exhibitions and other events.

    Probably the most intriguing works on display are those made out of 20 tons of twisted metal, steel girders, and bars that were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11. Antonio Paradiso was selected as the only Italian artist among the 9,000 artists who applied for the permission and opportunity to turn parts of the destroyed World Trade Center into art. He got the chance to personally choose which elements he used.

    La Palomba, which means “The Dove” in English and many of the pieces feature doves in one form or another. With the mist in the background the pieces were quite striking against the skyline. I enjoyed this brief stop on our journey for today.
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  • Day49

    B&B Solosud

    October 17 in Italy

    After a relaxing morning in Alberobello we said goodbye to our fabulous host, Daniela and her partner, and hit the road again. We had a wonderful stay in our Trulli hut and absolutely loved the town. It was a great three day stay but our journey must continue.

    Brad is getting very good at driving like an Italian and I’m not sure that is a good thing but he got us to our next destination in one piece. Tonight’s stop-over is at Matera, the town we viewed from the distance on our stops on the way to Alberobello. Matera is a very unique town and so is our accomodation. It is amazing, which is why it is getting its own post.

    We are staying at B&B Solosud, a Sassi house in old Matera. Sassi houses are houses dug into the calcarenitic rock, carved out of the caves and cliffs. While we have appreciated the old Italian styling of some of our previous accomodation this one is styled to perfection. We are staying in a house that was most likely the home for the ancient Materians over 9000 years ago and while it still retains the charm of the original dwelling it has been tastefully renovated and decorated. And it has everything you could possibly want for an overnight stay. We just wish we were staying longer.

    The owner Paola is a lovely Italian lady who lived in Sydney for ten years many years ago and she speaks fabulous English. She made us feel very welcome and gave us heaps of tourist information and guides. It certainly makes a difference to your stay when you start your visit with great service.

    And the added bonus is the location. The view out of our front door is across the gully to the cave riddled mountains and overlooking the square below with the church and piazza. It is the perfect location for sightseeing, restaurants, or to just admire the view.

    The B&B Solosud is definitely in our top three of places we have stayed and we have stayed at some fabulous places. We would recommend this place to anyone in a heartbeat.
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  • Day50

    The Ghost Town of Craco

    October 18 in Italy

    We woke to the town covered in fog and because we were close to the edge of town overlooking the gully it looked like we were at the edge of the world.

    We enjoyed a very delicious breakfast today with our Italian hostess. This was a bit different to usual as we have always eaten our breakfast by ourselves in the past, either in a common breakfast room, on our balconies or with a voucher for a cafe close by. Today we enjoyed a very delicious breakfast in our host’s kitchen. Her home was above our “cave” rooms and it was beautiful. It was great hearing how her and her brother bought three rooms many years ago and as rooms next door became available they bought those too until they had enough to create their home.

    Because our hostess had lived in Australia for ten years she spoke very good English and it was lovely to be able to communicate with her. She was telling us about how hard it is to live in Italy with the cost of living and taxes. Both Brad and I have realised while touring this country how very lucky we are to live in Australia and how we actually see the benefits of our rates and taxes. We really do live in the lucky country.

    After breakfast we packed our bags (thankfully we had taken on board the advise to travel light to Matera and had just transferred what we needed for one night into a backpack and left our suitcases in the car) and climbed the stairs to make our way back to the car park, while crossing our fingers that our car and luggage were still there. Phew - they were.

    First stop today was the abandoned village of Craco. Craco is a ghost town and comune in the Province of Matera, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The old town was abandoned due to natural disasters and the abandonment has made Craco a tourist attraction and a popular filming location. In 2010, Craco was included in the watch list of the World Monuments Fund.

    Around 540 BC, the area was called Montedoro and inhabited by Greeks who moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto. Tombs have been found dating from the 8th century BC, suggesting the original settlement dates back to then.

    The greatest difficulty the town faced in later years was environmental and geological. From 1892 to 1922, over 1,300 Crachesi migrated to North America mainly due to poor agricultural conditions. In 1963, Craco began to be evacuated due to a landslide and the inhabitants moved to the valley of Craco Peschiera. The landslide seems to have been provoked by works of infrastructure, sewer and water systems. In 1972 a flood worsened the situation further, preventing a possible repopulation of the historic center. After the earthquake in 1980, the ancient site of Craco was completely abandoned.

    Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was partially shot in Craco along with lots of other movies.

    We had hoped to do a tour of the old town but English speaking tours aren’t that popular in the off peak season. Because you can’t enter the site unless you are in a tour we made do with photographing the city from beyond the walls. It is hard to comprehend that an entire city had been abandoned. We have seen many homes, buildings and complexes abandoned as we have driven around Italy but not such a large town.

    It was a pretty cool detour and I have loved the countryside we have been driving through. It countryside in Southern Italy has been very different to Northern Italy and very picturesque.
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  • Day36

    MATERA, die Höhlenstadt

    November 16 in Italy

    Wir fahren nach Matera und entdecken ein ganz anderes Italien. Matera ist eine Stadt, die quasi schon in der Steinzeit bewohnt war. Entlang dreier Schluchten wurden viele Höhlen aus weißem Tuffstein besiedelt. Bis in die 50er Jahre lebten die Bewohner dort in ärmlichsten Verhältnissen. Davon ist jetzt fast nichts mehr zu sehen, denn die Stadt putzt sich heraus und wird im nächsten Jahr Kulturhauptstadt Europas sein. Wir stehen mit unserem Bulli in einer ruhigen Lage genau auf der anderen Seite der Schluch. Dort hat Paolo eine kleine Campingmöglichkeit an seiner "field school" eingerichtet. Er weiß so ziemlich alles über die Gegend und abends dürfen wir uns immer in seinem kleinen Ökoladen aufwärmen und Tee trinken. Die Nächte sind mittlerweile sehr kalt geworden. Leider brauchen wir wohl einen neue Camping-Batterie, um die Standheizung regelmäßiger betreiben zu können.Read more

  • 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
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  • 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!
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  • 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.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Provincia di Matera, Matera

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