National Geographic Traveller (UK)




If wandering through Matera’s sassis is like travelling back to medieval times, then an amble in the Murgia Materana National Park on the other side of the canyon feels positively prehistori­c. It’s a 10-minute drive or, if you’re feeling energetic, you can go on foot using the Belvedere Murgia Timone trailhead next to the car park on the eastern side of the Sassi. It’s a four-mile circular trail, which will see you cross the Gravina canyon by suspension bridge before clambering up 1,000-year-old paths to explore yawning natural caves inhabited since the Stone Age and rock-cut churches frescoed with seventhcen­tury Byzantine art. The views are best at dawn — gaze westwards across the canyon as the sun rises behind you to witness Matera basking in an ethereal glow.


Nowhere does pasta quite like Italy, but the shapes and styles differ from region to region.

Learn the secrets of the south with a pasta-making class at Le Dodici Lune, a cave hotel in Sasso Caveoso. You’ll handcraft your own cavatelli and strascinat­i pasta shells using only rimacinata flour and water before tossing them with turnip tops and garlic. Enjoy with a glass of wine in the hotel’s breezy courtyard. After lunch, you might not feel like you have much of an appetite for any more frescoed churches, but a tour of the Crypt of Original Sin is a must, and sure to take your breath away. Lauded as the Sistine Chapel of cave art, its depictions of biblical scenes and portraits are the best in the region, thanks to the painstakin­g restoratio­n work that’s been done to preserve them for visitors.


Enjoy the spell-binding sunset from Piazza Duomo, where you’ll find the cathedral that crowns the city, then head for Via Domenico Ridola, a lively strip of bars and restaurant­s. Save room for dessert-to-go from I Vizi degli Angeli, a gelato ’laboratory’ that whips up the best sweet treats in the city. When you’re finished, head back to your hotel, which, for the full Matera experience, should be a renovated cave. At Le Grotte della Civita, the bedrooms — candle-lit and embellishe­d with rustic wooden furnishing­s — combine medieval charm with modern comforts such as underfloor heating. Renovating and restoring the cave was a labour of love and took years as part of a cultural project to conserve the local heritage. The result is among the world’s most unique and unforgetta­ble hotel stays.

 ?? ?? Church of Santa Maria de Idris, Sasso Caveoso
Church of Santa Maria de Idris, Sasso Caveoso

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