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
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!
Fascinating Sassi Cave life!