Matera – September 2013 (Part 4)

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Be sure to read PART 1, PART 2, and PART 3 of my vacation journal before continuing…

After a wonderful time in Valle d’Itria, it was on to Matera.

Although it’s not in Puglia, but in Basilicate, Matera is nevertheless quite close to Puglia and it’s a shame to miss it if you are in the region.  Our drive was supposed to take 40 minutes, but because of the quirky GPS we have, it ended up taking a good bit more.  More olive groves!

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Entering Matera, it immediately strikes you as being otherworldly.  Mel Gibson used it as his set for the ‘Passion of the Christ’ and the Sassi have been photographed and published in books and all over the web.  This is the most touristy place we visited this trip but it was well worth it.

Matera is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matera.  It’s a Unesco site, and it’s fascinating to read about it http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/670.

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Our hotel is in the Sassi, the famous cave dwellings Matera is famous for.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sassi_di_Matera. Once we arrived, luckily the hotel took one look at our expression, and was apparently accustomed to tourists not wanting to navigate the narrow one-way streets (and streets is a generous term!)… They took our car off our hands – it would be returned to us when we leave (and the person returning it would drive us out of the Sassi and into the “new” town.)

We had a little bit of time before meeting Nadia, our guide so we sat at a café on the Main square in the ‘new town’ and had coffee, admiring the lovely old buildings and the light that somehow is different here.  Nadia arrived and we began the tour by visiting the giant cisterns.  This huge sturcture was what prompted the Unesco process in the first place.  That part over, we walked into the Sassi and spent 2 hours listening to a fascinating at times, and horrifying at other times, narrative about the whole Sassi, the displacement organized in the late 1950s and the whole legacy of this area.  Others have written far better about it than we can, but we were very glad we came, even though it was quite haunting.

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Back at the hotel, we took advantage of the spa.  The hotel is built in the Sassi and our room was also a former grotto – quite interesting and very nicely restored.  The spa was even better.  It’s underground, complete with pool, Turkish bath, hot tub and sauna.  A delightful way to end a day.  http://www.locandadisanmartino.it/hotel/visita-le-thermae/

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The weather was a bit overcast and rainy but cleared enough to make a walk and drink at a terrace café quite enjoyable.

Tomorrow we were heading down into the Southern tip of Puglia, into the lower tip of the stiletto, the Salento.   We’ve been here a week and we already know it’s not enough.

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