Home » Travel itineraries: Matera and its Sassi, through history, culture and gourmet addresses

Travel itineraries: Matera and its Sassi, through history, culture and gourmet addresses

by Ada Parisi
5 min read

I must warn you right away: this travel route to Matera, European Capital of Culture in 2019, It is a bit 'special. As always I recommend restaurants, Hotel, products to buy, But what about a visit to the city is another story. Because I can not tell you what to see if you don't explain what is Matera: for this you will have to endure an introduction into the heart of this city full of stones, He has a history of glory, of defeat and resurrection.

When you arrive in Matera, dont catch suffered by its narrow streets and alleys which open around you (nor from tourist guides who will try to get you to the jacket), but games from afar and follow your feelings. Matches from the cliff overlooking the city, from those paths interrupted by sudden under stroke by tiny multicoloured frescoes and decorated caves cave churches marked by time. And stop watching Matera in its entirety, in its plasticity. His be climbing, almost suspended on a cliff of more than one hundred meters, wearing a flowing river has always. Because this site, one of the three oldest cities in the world, along with Jericho (in the West Bank) and Aleppo (in Syria), is based on primordial element, origin of life: the water. Already, the water. That's why the man chose to stay in a place seemingly inhospitable as this. That's why Matera, in Basilicata, he obtained in 1993 the recognition of the UNESCO heritage city.

THE STORY: Get to Matera without even knowing its history means not being able to fully understand, or visit aware. Tourism here cannot simply wander through the lanes, looking at the specialty shops and remain amazed in front of that jumble of huts, walled port, of blind Windows, but also of galleries, vegetable gardens, gardens and Baroque masterpieces. The city is imagined and docked along the ages and history: beginning with the first human settlements in the Paleolithic, in these protected areas and rich water, until the 8th century the Benedictine monks and Greek-Byzantine, fleeing persecution and coming both from the East and from the Magna Greece, began to colonize these steep terrain and building monasteries and churches. Through the ages, Matera develops until arriving in the Renaissance at its greatest extent and wealth between the 15th and 17th centuries, expanding its economy thanks to an emerging middle class, formed by merchants, lawyers, Architects, writers, College guys, Clerici. Matera is a baby boomer perfectly run, Thanks to thriving businesses, button culture, a construction activity that gives rise to splendid monuments and Baroque palaces. Then, at the beginning of the 19th century, This miraculous balance breaks down: with the move of the capital to a power, Matera falls into oblivion, is impoverished. Peasant classes and small traders are left with a single wealth: the offspring. Many lose their jobs and begin to live in hardship. For them the choice to emigrate, or try to survive. During this period, many begin to use as housing the cave houses, the "sassi", that were used as cellars, as deposits or to host animals. In those caves, damp and unhealthy, with only one opening to the outside, now mass parents, grandparents, Kids, pigs, dogs and donkeys. Diseases spread, the infant mortality rate exceeds 50%.

The description and photo of this sharp decline, This extreme poverty to be defined ' national shame ' from political leader Palmiro Togliatti, arrive at the hands of Carlo Levi in his book Christ stopped at Eboli ", released in 1945 and written by the torinese intellectual during his exile in Aliano, in the province of Matera, during the period of fascist dictatorship. And so, the little Matera, many Italians had never heard, become a media and public interest case. The Italian Government, with Alcide De Gasperi, Decides to vacate 15 thousand people (half of the population) from the stones and to build new homes in the highest part of town. The stones are so abandoned. But those same intellectuals who exposed the deplorable living conditions of its inhabitants were the first architects of rebirth of the sassi: from the same Carlo Levi, that launched the idea, the incessant activity of the Club Ladder. In 1990, comes the Unesco recognition for the system (unique) to use the slopes to control and collect the waters. Today, Thanks to renovations favored by the Town Council, over 5,000 residents have returned to live in the sassi, and they remodeled homes, Open restaurants, set up shops and workshops. And in 2015 Matera was named European capital of culture for 2019, thus becoming an obligatory visit in my opinion for all Italians but also for Europeans in general.

Matera owes its international prominence also to cinematography, He chose her as the ideal set for her being so extraordinarily out of time. The film that brought the name of Matera in the world is certainly The Passion (2004), Director Mel Gibson, but one cannot fail to mention the Gospel according to Matthew (1964) by Pier Paolo Pasolini (There is a beautiful painting in one of the alleys of Matera, where Pasolini alive is holding the dead Pasolini), “The she-Wolf” (1953) by Alberto Lattuada, “Basilicata coast to coast” (2010) Rocco Papaleo, “Allonsanfàn” (1974) by the Taviani brothers and “Quantum of solace” James Bond series (2008). And most recently the shooting of the new “Ben Hur”, remake of the famous 1960s film starring Charlton Heston.

WHAT SEE: Matera is conventionally divided into Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, with the Civita: both parties are teeming with life today with restaurants, Hotel, residence, cafes, small shops and museums. While Sasso Barisano is very forward with restructuring, The Sasso Caveoso presents, especially towards the end, Yet many areas abandoned and closed to the public. However, it maybe the part where better one understands how and in what conditions they had to live those populations. Do not speak of every single monument to visit, because I want you to find out Matera from you: This a good guide book (I recommend the Lonley Planet) you will certainly be helpful. I will just tell you that you can't not to visit at least some Rupestrian churches beyond the Gravina, and for this you will need a good tour guide and passionate as Francis Paul Rondinone, that makes everything more real and vivid while accompanies you along steep trails. You can't, in Matera, do not visit the Musma, Contemporary Sculpture Museum which is housed in a 16th century building that crosses the cave House with Baroque, House Noha (now owned by the Fai) where you can learn about the city thanks to a video that reconstructs the history, the wonderful cave churches of Santa Maria dell'idris, San Pietro Caveoso, Saint Lucia of Hollyhocks, San Pietro Barisano, the Madonna delle Virtù, San Nicola dei Greci, the beautiful Romanesque church of San Giovanni Battista and the Cathedral (Unfortunately I only saw it in passing because under restoration) .

Not clear to me, instead, the situation of the Convicino complex of Saint Anthony: I could not visit it because, Despite me showing that the management of the complex is vacant and waiting for notice of assignment, a self-styled guide prevented access to all those who were not in the group, and then they had paid an unspecified sum to an unspecified Association, unless they were foreigners and therefore fooled. Then check with theApt to Matera whether it is possible to visit the complex. Finally, visit Palombaro, the ancient cistern of Matera, to understand why the city is secure in Unesco water collection system. To get an idea of the daily lives of Matera of 70 years ago visited the cave House of Lonesome Lane, It has the downside of always being too busy. In addition to Musma, visit Museo nazionale Ridola, where there is a magnificent collection of Greek vases, and Palazzo Lanfranchi where are the paintings by Carlo Levi, including Lucania 61, that basically carries on canvas the vision of Christ stopped at Eboli '.

WHERE TO EAT IN MATERA: Come to one of my favorite topics: What and where to eat in Matera? I state that in Matera we eat very well, the portions are generous and the raw materials of excellence, by crispy peppers of Senise in the bread of Matera Igp, to get to the caciocavallo podolico, salsiccia pezzente, the delicious ricotta and Vulture wines. If you prefer to eat in locations veraci and somewhat rustic, I suggest the tavern Pico and restaurant Shops, in the heart of the Sasso Barisano: lInn Pico It has a wonderful game room inside a cave where I suggest you enjoy the appetizers home, a taste of all the typical products lucani, and a dish of crispy peppers (those with tomato, garlic and parsley are exquisite), While choosing the antipasto misto lucano at The Shops I don't think you will be able to eat anything else because it is a riot of vegetables, Fried, cheese and Cupcakes. If you're really hungry try the mixed grilled meat with lamb lucano as the protagonist and the gnummareddi, Lamb innards wrapped in intestines and barbecued. In Civita instead I recommend Cat Mandu, a wine bar with kitchen: even here I recommend the appetizers, a creative selection of traditional products (including crepes with Escarole and caciocavallo cheese fondue, sausage and Potato Quiche with beggar, jelly red onions with salt cod). And again good olive branch with leaves and garnish the cod. Don't miss the sweet: a cannoli with pane di Matera stuffed with fabulous local ricotta.

If you want to try traditional cuisine but slightly revisited, presented with care and in an elegant setting, I suggest you The Abundance Of Lucania and especially The Bacchae, both in the Sasso Caveoso. The former has a slightly higher than average costs of restaurants materani: the Starter is an interpretation of high quality products, from cheeses to salumi lucanian cereal, the first dishes are all made fresh pasta, the flavors are clean and enhance the raw. The Matera restaurant that I remained in my heart is The Bacchae, , where we were celebrating my partner's birthday (and photographer's blog), situated inside a cave decorated in a minimalist and chic: for starters try the rabbit with peppers and olives or potato pie with sausage beggars, as a starter, delicious wheat orecchiette blazed with cod, Crispy peppers and Broccoli Rabe, very good also the cod with chicory, black olives and tomatoes. Great appreciation for its wide selection of cheeses, a little less exciting desserts, good but without that extra edge of savory dishes. There is a wide selection of wines. For a gourmet break try the crispy, iced tea and home made cookies of Central Coffee, in piazza Vittorio Veneto, or the homemade ice cream and fruit ICES ' Angels ' defects '.

If you want to take home some typical products from Matera to do try to friends and relatives (or selfishly to eat in peace between you) I suggest you buy bread and buns to House of bread and salami, cheese and garnish the salumeria The foodie, both are in piazza Vittorio Veneto, practically next to each other, and I have done extensive stash of typical products, served by kind and helpful people, as is in the ropes of Matera. As for the hospitality, Matera offers a wide range of solutions, from bed & Breakfast in luxurious resorts in magnificently restored. I slept at Residence Sassi di San Gennaro and I would recommend it for a good price-quality balance (about 110 euro double): the structure is old and partly set in a rock, and some rooms have barrel vaults. I slept in a room inside a tank! It is in the heart of the Sasso Barisano, in a great location , with a nice panoramic terrace. And there's the bonus of a breakfast of buns with tomato, buns with sugar, excellent ricotta, homemade cakes and fresh fruit.



Lucia January 14, 2017 - 09:25

Interesting article and very addictive,I enjoyed the whole explanation with the desire to be in the midst of that landscape. Excellent starting point x further insights. Thanks.

Ada Parisi January 14, 2017 - 10:03

Thank You Lucy! Is’ one of the routes that I remember with affection. The history of Matera and its caves the you live fully when you find yourself in front of that rock bored and to those wonderful churches. I really hope you have been helpful and that hit me hit you like Matera. A dear greeting, ADA


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