Where is Mat­era?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Travel -

YOU have likely seen it with­out recog­nis­ing it. Mat­era in Italy has been des­ig­nated Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture for 2019 and is thought to be the world's third old­est city. A Un­esco World Her­itage site since 1993, the city's Sassi quar­ter has been used as a film­ing lo­ca­tion for nu­mer­ous movies.

Now, 2019 is set to be the year when Mat­era will emerge as a lead­ing tourist des­ti­na­tion in its own right.

Where is it?

Lo­cated just above the in­step of the Ital­ian boot (re­fer­ring to the boot-shaped map of Italy), Mat­era is in the Basil­i­cata re­gion, which bor­ders on Apu­lia to the east, Cam­pa­nia to the west and Cal­abria to the south.

How to get there

The eas­i­est way is to catch a plane to the air­port in Bari, which is the cap­i­tal of Apu­lia. Mat­era is some 60km from the air­port, and the Pugli­air­bus will take you there in around two hours.

Main tourist at­trac­tion

The nu­mer­ous caves in the city have been in con­tin­u­ous use since the Pa­le­olithic pe­riod, and the area is thought to be one of the old­est hu­man set­tle­ments in Italy. Over the cen­turies of their long his­tory, many of these caves have been trans­formed into chapels. Adepts of re­li­gious tourism will be de­lighted by the prospect of an itin­er­ary that can take in as many as 130 Ru­pes­trian churches.

No doubt the sheer num­ber of these places of wor­ship is one of the rea­sons why Mat­era is often re­ferred to as the "Sec­ond Beth­le­hem". At the same time, its per­ceived re­sem­blance to An­cient Jerusalem has also caught the eye of film di­rec­tors like Mel Gib­son and Pier Paolo Pa­solini who have used it as a lo­ca­tion for such films as The

Pas­sion of The Christ and The Gospel Ac­cord­ing to St Matthew.

Where to stay overnight

The caves of Mat­era were not only home to her­mits and monks, they also housed a much wider pop­u­la­tion. This strange habi­tat carved out of rock has a name – the Sassi. The cave dwellings are linked by nar­row wind­ing streets and stone steps, which makes the area a gi­ant lime­stone labyrinth.

Like the trulli, which have at­tracted thou­sands of vis­i­tors to Al­ber­o­bello in Apu­lia, the Sassi is enough to jus­tify a visit to Mat­era. And if the troglodyte theme is par­tic­u­larly to your lik­ing, you can also choose to stay in one of the sev­eral cave dwellings that have been trans­formed into ho­tels.

What to eat and drink

Du­rum wheat (le grano duro )is one of the star in­gre­di­ents in Mat­era. It is used to make pasta and bread, which is a key in­gre­di­ent in dishes like the cialledda calda, a sort of soup made from eggs and olives flavoured with gar­lic and bay leaf. Red chilli pep­pers are an­other no­table prod­uct of Mat­era, and they are widely used in a range of recipes. Lo­cated just 30km away from the Io­nian coast, the city is a good place to or­der fish.

Mat­era is also a well-es­tab­lished des­ti­na­tion for wine lovers, who ap­pre­ci­ate the prov­ince's dishes and cheeses with the lo­cal wines. – AFP Re­laxnews

—AFP

Mat­era in Italy has been des­ig­nated Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture for 2019.

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