Matera Basilicata Italy ~ Romancing Italy

Sep 4, 2008

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata ItalyMatera, Basilicata Late August 2008

The road to Matera passed through open fields of grain. Or what was left of it. Without the welcome shade of a single tree, it remains in my mind an image of blazing heat….a scene painted from an artist’s palette of pastel yellow and blue color, then splashed with white.

The new part of Matera, with its condos and parks seemed like an entire world away. Cars parked under the shade and two old couples sitting on their small balcony watched us as we checked the map for directions. An officer, “vigile” was walking toward us and we asked for directions for the “cave homes”.

And then we entered yet another world, remnant from centuries ago. It is not hard to see why this region was chosen to film The Passion of Christ.

Old town roads were made of large slabs of stone, slippery rock for a bike. Heat rose from the road and as soon as I hopped off the bike, I yanked off my heavy leather jacket and helmet. I’d have to manage with the pants, complete with knee and hip protectors. There were signs for various well visited parts of the village, the water well, the sanctuary, a typical house of the time. We followed a group for a short while, listening to the commentary from the guide. Then we struck off on our own. We chose an interesting landmark and headed in that direction.

The homes were built into the rock, some of them with faces on the outside, and others built into a cave. Trees were scarce and so were the people. What a contrast from the new part. It is not hard to see why people would stay in their homes during the day and then only come out at night.

Matera land of Sassi

The cave home was a large living space that was separated into different working parts. Sleeping quarters were comprised of the large bed for the couple. Use of a small bed at the foot of the parents’ was rotated between children. Washing took place near a hole in the ground where an underground stream ran. The kitchen, in its own nook, was also near the water supply. At the rear of the cave was the stall for the animals which usually consisted of a horse or mule, sheep or (help) goats. Tools used for work were hung on the walls with the animals. The only thing lacking was a toilet and to accommodate, a port-a-potty was stored next to the bed…yes…sweet dreams…and emptied manually. As you can imagine, animals just did their thing.

Over time, with deterioration in the standard of living and the lack of water (due in part to the building of the new Matera) the Italian government offered new housing elsewhere and closed the old town. Only those wealthy enough were able to buy the new homes and keep the cave homes as well. Many of the homes have the sign on the front that say it has been taken over by the government…and unfortunately left to further deterioration.

Although I love the old, uneven paths, the irregular floor plan for the village and the houses built into the side of the rock, into the rock, on top the rock, the absence of shady trees makes it a difficult place to fall in love with. But history makes it a fascinating and definitely alluring place.

Matera Slideshow:



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