Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ancient Matera

View of Matera from our hotel
Last weekend, Chris and I took a short weekend trip the city of Matera. It was our first experience on the east coast of Italy, so our drive took us straight across the country. Just like most of the cities we have visited, it is really old- and thought to be one of the world's oldest. But this one is unique in that it was relatively "undiscovered" until the mid 1900's. It is an entire little city that is built into two ravines with natural cave grottoes. People lived in these little cave dwellings (called sassi)- along with their animals- up until that past 60 years or so. Then a book was published enlightening the rest of Italy to the poor, over-crowded, and disease-stricken community. After that, efforts began to make it a healthy and livable place. Many of the population was relocated to fix the overcrowding. Now, it is a popular tourist town with hotels and restaurants and thermal spas, yet with most of the sassi very well preserved. We slept in our own little "cave" and everything! Now it is also well known for being where Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ was filmed. Coincidentally, we ended up eating at one of the restaurants he frequented while there.  We heard the best way to explore the city was just to wander through the labyrinth of streets and alleys- so we did! And we agree, a map is pointless :)
Our own personal cave
An interesting design on the ceiling of our hotel room-creepy!
The dining cave- where we had breakfast

One of the many sassi houses
Cave grottoes on the other side of the ravine (uninhabited)

 Just taking in the city from the top! It looked like a giant maze

A page from the restaurant menu where we ate dinner:
offering us "Fettuccine alla Mel Gibson"

 The night time view was  spectacular!
I thought it looked like a snow globe.

Sleepy morning in Matera

The drive included mile after mile of olive trees

Hello central Italia!

Who knew there were cherry blossoms in Italy?! (I didn't!)
Too beautiful not too pull over and snap a picture or two