Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Matera, Italy

We had a bit of a lazier morning this morning and had breakfast at 8.30 instead of 8.00. Our host gave us an Italian breakfast of Boncini - which is fresh Mozarella tied up like bonbons. Nikki and I have fallen in love with fresh Mozarella! There's nothing like it in NZ!

By the time we set off to do the walk down the valley, then up to the caves, it was very hot already. We were greeted with this sign. I made sure we weren't wearing stillettos.  Although the sign seems silly, we saw many women wearing stupid footwear inside the Sassi where it's all rough cobbles ancient years old!

This next photo is taken from the wall before the start of the walk, looking over to the oldest part of the Sassi - the Caveoso. Above at the top of the hill is the new part of the city built in the 1950s.

This next image is also pointed to the Caveoso, on the left is a baroque church, and in the middle, a cave church or rock church dating back to medieval times or before. 

I had really wanted to do this walk but at the top, I slipped a bit and lost my confidence. I decided with my sore foot, and my balance, it wasn't worth the risk as in parts it is very steep. Going up would be no problem, but going down would be risky. So Nikki and I parted company, she doing the walk, and I would explore the Sassi more and meet back at our cave in two hours.

This image shows the steepness of the hill Nikki traversed, the swing bridge in the distance, and then the path starting to traverse up the other side...

 The top...

In this photo about a third to the left and a third from the top, is where I saw Nikki sit down. She's in that photo somewhere! 

I wandered around the Sassi - came across a cave for sale.  Anyone?

One of the views of the Sassi  - I was lost amongst all the caves, so just meandered through the alleyways... up and down hills and stairs...in the hot hot sun.

I came across a church in a square with skulls all over it. I found out later it's the Purgatory church, not of Christian origin, built in 1747. 

It was pretty inside, and a service was in progress.

Above the door were the skeletons and a man in a fire...

Still wandering - found a vineyard - Matera style...

An example of some of the alleyways I had to walk in.

I got back to our cave (the 15th century converted convent), about ten minutes before Nikki. We had a bit of a rest to cool down before heading back out at midday to see some of the famed frescoes in some ancient churches of Byzantine period or before..

You can see that the outside has a facade, but then when you walk into the door, the church has just been carved into the limestone cliff face..

Ancient Frescoes...

The church goes several floors under with tiny staircases and narrow passageways. Here is Nikki posing to show how small...

In the brochure it said that this room was used for dead bodies. They were sat up in those chairs and left to drain. We didn't sit down!

The caves were very damp. Very damp. Even ours was - the dehumidifier in our cave where we slept went 24/7, and filled up with water full to the brim every 12 hours. You can see the mould and lichen on the wall of this church, and most buildings had this. Many of the precious frescoes were lost to the damp - you can see where a frescoe has been, and replaced with green. That was because the city was closed for 30 years after the government moved people out in the 1950s.

Outside we saw lots of lizards. This one was the fattest and laziest one we saw, and enabled us to photograph it - most of them scuttled away very quickly before we could even get our cameras out!

Oh look - another view of the Sassi!

We had another half hour rest back in our cave before meeting up with our guide, Maria to learn about the history of Matera. While we had seen a lot already, the history was patchy as there was not much English about. Maria was an incredible guide, she not only works as a guide occasionally, she is also a translater and speaks four languages, English, Italian, Spanish and French. Born in Matera, she was really knowledgeable about Matera and it's history, and passionate about the city.

We learnt that Matera is the oldest city in the world. The caves on the top of the hills houses people 10,000 years ago in prehistoric times. In medieval times (10th century), there was a castle wall around the city, and at the end of the 10th Century when it was relatively peaceful in europe, people started developing the medieval part, by building palaces etc...  The Turks from Cappadocia actually migrated to here and bought with them, the knowledge on how to build into the cave system.

Statues in the Medieval part of the city, were built especially as pigeon rests!!! (not really)

We learnt that Matera has approximate 150 rock churches, and 100 Baroque churches. And we thought Lecce was crazy having 22! This is one of the important Baroque churches. underneath is a cave system, and on the actual squre is a cemetary underneath.

A storm brewed, and for the first time since we landed in Europe. it rained. And it got cold, but we welcomed the brief cool respite!

We were taken to a cave house, where we learnt how people lived. This one was a large one, but in the 1950s, there would be one family complete with animals (horse, goats, pigs), in only one room.
 The bed was high off the floor to avoid the dampness.

And the kitchen was always by the door.

 This is an old black and white photograph that shows you how they lived...

After the storm came a wonderful sunset and some amazing skies and rainbows!

In the 1700s, this house was built. Materials were scarce so often anything that came to hand was used. In this case - animal bones were used to build the roof structure...

Maria spent 2.5 hours with us.  I fully recommend her if you are in Matera. You can contact her by email :  Maria Montano: monma85@gmail.com 

And evening fell. Maria recommended a great pizzeria where we had our last supper in Italy. The pizzas were excellent - Kappador.

I'm so glad I came to Matera in 2016. They are getting ready for 2019 where they will become the Culture Capital of Europe. So I suggest you get to see it as soon as you can before the tourist descend on Matera big time!

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