Matera, being in the south of Italy, in general is more religious than, say, Rome or Milan, or even a smaller town up north. For somebody living in the UK, it was fascinating to see families - of all generations - going for church services on Sunday morning, dressed in (by the looks of it) best Sunday clothing. It is one of the almost lost pieces of the Italy of old that one remembers from books and movies.
It does, however, have practical implications for tourists - especially if you, like us, think that this bit of Italy has been lost forever and plan to visit local churches on... yes, Sunday morning. You will have to wait till afternoon when they will reopen after services. On the positive side, it's an amazing people-watching opportunity, especially on the main square.
This is what you find written in some street signals there show the way to visit some particular sites in the town.Rari turisti means that in that place you should not find many tourists you should not find lines, nor groups.This is the first time in my life that I see a tourist information dividing touristic places from a kind of off the beaten path ones, and, I can say I really did not find anyone in the sites marked as: rari turisti.Genial!
Bread (and of course pasta) are the staples of Italian diet. In times gone by it was regulated and customarily baked in a central oven ( as well as that the flour was restictedly milled). The citizens would shape their loaves and bring them to the communal oven. Before delivery to the oven they would "brand" them with their personal dough stamp. Close by the bakery which we visited, we found a wood-carver making stamps to order (with your initial). How could you not bring them home to your offspring? The bread today is made by the bakers and bought over the counter. Such bread is becoming scarce in Italy (prefab flour and store baked is almost all you can get in the USA). They eye-ball the amount ,shape it, weigh it to check aganst underweight , and off it goes to the oven. The left over dough makes pizzas and calzones. Can you smell it?
Matera, although the capitol of Basilicata, is historically Pugliese. They would know the church of San Giovanni Rotundo (on the Gargano Peninsula) which is only 200 km from Matera.It is there that the recently beatified Franciscan monk (d.1969)is buried and it is where he worked "mracles" and drew thousands of pilgrims. It is not surprising that the deeply religious Materans would have been drawn to this corner of the park containing the Fontana Ferdinandea where a statue of the Padre has recently been erected. Their reverence is manifested by the daily floral depositions and praying persons. (It is noon and raining hard)