A taste of Puglia - Matera

Nov 22nd, 2019, 04:01 AM
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A taste of Puglia - Matera

A Taste of Puglia – Matera

Matera is one of the most beautiful and interesting places I have visited. It is the 3rd oldest city in the world and is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

However Matera used to be known as ‘The Shame of Italy’. Matera is a city of cave houses and conditions used to be very primitive. Even in the 1950s, there was no electricity or running water. There was no sewage systage, a huge ditch running through the middle of the street carried all the waste. Big, extended families lived together in their cave house, along with their animals. It was cold and damp and disease was rife including malaria, cholera and tuberculosis.

mdeMatera was called the ‘Shame of Italy’ because of the squalid conditions it’s residents endured.
In the 1950s new apartment blocks were built for the 15,000 residents of the Sassi (Old Town). Most residents didn’t want to leave the Sassi and were forcibly removed. There were huge protests. The government however, owned all the properties and residents were made to leave.

Allocation for new apartments was done by drawing lots. Many residents were separated from neighbours they’d lived side by side with for generations. As in most, of Puglia several houses were built around a small courtyard. Although in this case case they were yewn from the rock. It is sandstone so was easy to carve but was also porous.Settling in to their apartments took a little getting used to. Most moved their animals in with them. The men would take them to pasture during the day and bring them home in the evening. It was usual to see sheep on the balcony and a pig in the bath. Bidets were used for growing Rosemary, thyme and oregano.

In the 1980s the movement to restore the Sassis gained momentum and a clean up operation began. The government began offering 30 year leases for properties. In 1993 Matera was declared a UNESCO world Heritage Site. Soon the first renovated cave, houses became holiday lettings, restaurants and shops. It is an incredible turnaround.In 2004 Mel Gibson filmed part of the The Passion of Christ in Matera. In parts it looks a lot like the old Jerusalem. This attracted more tourists and made Mel Gibson something of a local hero here. Scenes from the recent remake of Ben Hur and the Wonder Woman film were also shot here. As I write this they are filming scenes for new James Bond movie. I was lucky to see some balcony scenes being shot last night.I’m glad I came now. There is still a section of the Sassis yet to be renovated and to see the before and after is incredible. To think that for 30 years the rest of the Sassi looked like this.I stayed in a cave house booked through Airbnb. It was Casa del Trombetiere – La Corte del Cavalalieri. My bathroom was incredible. Funny to think that previously it was the room the animals stayed in.I went on a small group walking tour with Discovering Matera as a Group. The guide was excellent and extremely knowledgeable.There are also some excellent restaurants too. As my host said ‘ it’s all excellent food, it’s just the price that’s different’.My tip would be not to visit for a day trip but to stay overnight for 1 night or more. Have the experience of staying in a cave house. Also enjoy first thing in the morning and early evening when the tour groups and day trippers have gone and the light is so fantastic.I got up at 6am and was rewarded with this. What a way to start the dayI then inadvertently ended up on a film set. This is the James Bond car complete with scrapes and bullet holes.Go and visit Matera now before the film is released and you can still appreciate the tranquility.For more information or to read more of my adventures in Italy or elsewhere:
lynnstephenson1288 is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2019, 03:54 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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The photos of Matera are very well done and captured the cave houses. Did you also visit Puglia since you mentioned it in your title? Matera is in Basilicata.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2019, 08:12 PM
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Very interesting TR and your photos make me want to go see in myself. Thank you for writing.
Trophywife007 is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2019, 11:55 PM
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That early morning shot is incredible.
Adelaidean is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2019, 02:19 AM
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Yes, Materia is fantastic. Although in Basilicata, it was the highlight of our roadtrip in Puglia.
The city deserves to be Cultural Capital of Europe of 2019.
MyriamC is offline  
Nov 26th, 2019, 10:59 AM
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I found Matera interesting but much preferred Puglia and and many of it's towns.I found the idea of living in caves depressing.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Nov 26th, 2019, 05:42 PM
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Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures! I love Matera. Our room and bathroom was incredible, we were wishing we stayed longer than four days.
cafegoddess is offline  
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