Europe’s New City Of Cul­ture An Ital­ian gem

Best­selling au­thor th Jane Corry ex­plores Mat­era in south Italy – a pre­his­toric par­adise nes­tled in the rocks

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Imag­ine a ho­tel room that is ac­tu­ally a cave, carved out of pre­his­toric rock! Not only that, but the cave was once lived in by a Span­ish fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions un­til as re­cently as the 1950s.

When I first vis­ited Mat­era, I was as­tounded – and ap­pre­hen­sive. I like my com­forts and the prospect of stay­ing un­der­ground was rather un­set­tling!

But as soon as we got there, I re­alised that this was pos­si­bly the most ex­tra­or­di­nary place I’d ever vis­ited. I also dis­cov­ered that our cave ho­tel room was ac­tu­ally lux­u­ri­ous with an enor­mous shower, com­fort­able bed, clean white walls and a de-hu­mid­i­fier.

No won­der that Mat­era has been voted the Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture for 2019! The old part of the city – known as the Sassi, mean­ing ‘stones’ – is an amaz­ing land­scape of houses cut into rock, a labyrinth of steep cob­bled stone

paths, ho­tels, chapels with faded fres­coes on the walls, charm­ing guest houses and restau­rants hid­den in un­ex­pected quar­ters.

Above is the modern part of the city with its amaz­ing cathe­dral in the Pi­azza Duomo, mu­se­ums, beau­ti­ful shops and cul­tural fes­ti­vals spe­cial­is­ing in writ­ing, art, food and paint­ing through­out the year. There are also con­tem­po­rary ho­tels over­look­ing one of the many charm­ing squares.

It’s hard to be­lieve that Mat­era was once known as ‘Italy’s shame’. Large fam­i­lies would live in one cave, tak­ing it in turns to share a bed along­side a stall with a don­key and pig.

From the 1950s through to the ’70s, the gov­ern­ment fi­nally re-housed these fam­i­lies. Then the hoteliers moved in and the new Mat­era was born. I’ve vis­ited five times now – and each time I find some­thing new!

The beau­ti­ful cathe­dral Afriendly wel­come!

Bari Air­port

Fas­ci­nat­ing Sassi Cave life!

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