Matera - unbelievable
"You won't be sorry"
Some may consider Matera to be off the beaten path. And it is, in some ways. It's not Venice or Rome or Florence. In other words, it's not on the regular Italy beat of every tourist in the world. But damned if I can figure out why not. Matera is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. Haunted and haunting yet full of life. Amazing rock-cut churches. And houses, restaurants, hotels, shops in the caves. There's history, there is life, there is death, there is somberness, there is rebirth, there is tenacity and forebearance. There are vistas of i sassi, the ravine below, and the cliffs across the way. Matera is. It may be a cliche, but there isn't anywhere like Matera. Nor should there be. But you should go. Just go.
People have clearly lived in the area where Matera is forever. I sassi, the dwellings cut out of the tufa, have been inhabited for a long time, until relatively recently. In the middle of the last century the Italian government forced the inhabitants of i sassi to leave, due to unhygenic conditions. And it's true, disease and poverty was rampant...too many people, no running water or sewage system, 'farm' animals and people living together. Some people find this history embarrassing, humiliating, and horrible and think i sassi should be completely abandoned and razed. Others try to romanticize i sassi. But really, i sassi are what they are and what they were, for centuries. They should not be reviled nor romanticized. Acknowledging both the recent past as well as the more distant one. A story of immigration and of living where you find yourself , of creating beauty in the midst of life, in all its grueling aspects.
People are moving back to i sassi- there is money for renovations. Hotels, B&Bs, guest houses are springing up all over both sassi districts. Parking is reserved for residents and is impossible to find. Bars and restaurants fill up with locals- well after the tourists have left, mind you. And travelers are increasingly being drawn to the charm and complex history of i sassi.