From troglodyte home to luxury cave – the rebirth of Matera, Italy
The landscape of Matera, a small town in Basilicata, southern Italy, could easily be mistaken for the Holy Land, with its ancient buildings hanging on to the hillside. In fact the area has been used by Hollywood to give just such an image, when Mel Gibson shot the film “The Passion of the Christ” there back in 2003.
When choosing to travel
to Italy, Matera is a fascinating and unusual destination to visit.
Besides its historic and ancient buildings, the town is the site of a honeycomb
of caves, dotting its canyon walls. Dug into the soft rock around 9,000
years ago, these caves were home to Paleolithic and other ancient people.
According to UNESCO, the caves are the best example of a troglodyte settlement
in the Mediterranean, but in more modern times, they have been the shame
of Italy. Up until not too long ago, the poor of the town crammed into
these caves, living in squalor and filth. In what was known as Sasso Caveoso
and Sasso Barisano, the residents had no light, heat or sanitation and
illness was rife.
As reported in the Telegraph, some of the caves have been transformed into comfortable homes and many more have become boutique hotels, like Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita. While the hotel is considered a luxury hotel, there is no pool. You will find no conveniences like televisions, minibars or phones and little modern adornment in the rooms. The luxury is the very experience of staying there and the décor comes from the origins of the sassi. While the hotel does have a reception area and restaurant, the rest of the rooms are spread around the hillside as a community.
There are several other hotels in Matera and a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from, so anyone who might feel a little claustrophobic in a cave has a wide choice. Dining in Matera tends to hark back to the past with many of the traditional dishes still served. The streets of the sassi are a labyrinth, fascinating to explore, and totally car free, with winding pathways and endless steps, carved from the rock.
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Latest update: October 2, 2016