We travelled by train from Bari – after arguing where we were gonna have lunch for over an hour. once you arrive at the train station you get out in the modern part of the city and we must confess it’s pretty unremarkable. The Italian road signs are just as helpful as the Maltese road signs (please note the sarcasm in our voice) and it took us well over 50 minutes of going round in circles with our iPhones in hand trying to get to the historical centre, But we persevered, got lost a couple of times and made a few u-turns, argued over getting lost, bought a couple of drinks along the way to fuel our almost impossible mission–but once we arrived we were left speechless (and trust me for us not to have anything to say is a veryyy rare occurrence ) we will never, ever forget the sight which greeted us as we entered the Sassi di Matera.
Matera has an interesting story, and we all love a good story.
Not to bore you with too much history (it’s been a hard lesson for Belle to learn that not everyone loves history as much as she does), Matera is basically the most badass city in Italy because it looks like it hasn’t changed since dinosaurs roamed the planet. Ok, exaggerating, since the time baby Jesus roamed the planet.
Whilst you are roaming the endless flights of stairs all around Matera (and if you have Steph as a travel buddy u can count on hearing her complain every 2 minutes about how much she hates walking so much) but even amidst all of her complaints u could stand still at any point in Matera and literally see that NOTHING has changed in thousands of years. How many cities can boast that? well ok apart from our amazing Valletta (in Belles opinion Malta is an open air museum – don’t get her started on the history of our beautiful island – cos she can even talk about the history of sex and prostitutes in Malta but that will be another blog post)
Matera -is prehistoric in nature and is thought to be among the first human settlements in all of Italy. A community of cave men, in other words. And the Sassi have been continuously inhabited, apparently for at least 35,000 years.The people of this city dug their houses straight into the caves and rocks in the side of the ravine many of these have no been refurbished into very cute art studios. Matera is full of winding staircases, streets that run on top of the houses and caves after caves after caves connected by underground tunnels and passages. In fact, this was such a remote and impoverished corner of Italy, that people lived in the caves with their livestock without electricity or running water until the 1950’s (IN ITALY!!! I mean come on, Donatella Versace and Vasco Rossi were born in this country round about the time that people in Matera where still sleeping with goats to keep warm) Nowadays, people are slowly returning to the Sassi and are restoring the old cave houses bit by bit. They even have wifi.
The best way to get to know Matera is to wander and get lost. In fact, you will get lost no matter what you do so you should just embrace it.
As a general rule, the more overgrown and dodgy a staircase or alleyway looked, the more chance it will lead you to somewhere awesome. Just follow the cats.
You won’t be disappointed, we promise.