Matera is one of the oldest cities in the world. By day the sunlight enhances its white. At night, it looks like an immense nativity set up under the starry sky.
Its quarter I Sassi, ancient dwellings dug into the tufo, where the roofs serve as a base for the houses that have developed on higher levels. These were dug entirely into the rock and represent one of the most striking examples of exploitation of natural resources to obtain suitable conditions for the life of a large community. In the caves often lived more families and despite the lack of space, almost all daily activities took place in the cavities of cave-houses: from handicrafts to weaving, from food storage to animal care (dogs, chicken, pigs, horses and donkeys were living with the family as primitive source of heating). The temperature was constant and guaranteed by the characteristics of the sea tufo , so the inhabitants did not suffer too much from the cold in winter and found a shelter from summer heat. This way of life for years has been seen as a sign of backwardness and incivility. The inhabitants of the Sassi were often considered as primitives living like animals. In 1952 Sassi was considered “the Italian national shame”and abandoned in the late ’50s, Sassi was able to be redeemed until they became Unesco World Heritage in and will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture. Its amazing scenario has been used s a set for Mel Gibson “The Passion” Pier Paolo Pasolini “The Gospel According to Matthew “King David”, Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt “, and the remake of “Ben-Hur “.
I took the Gran Tour of Sassi,
an intense 3 hours guided tour and I learn so much about the history of this amazing city. The tour begins in front of the Cathedral, in the upper part of the City, and then goes deeper into the tangle of narrow alleys, caves, cellars, churches, small gardens, tiny squares and districts. I was able to discover in detail these unusual dwellings partly carved out of the limestone. It s a long walk, so wear comfy shoes.
Matera is also well now for its cooking tradition, a classic example of Italian peasant cuisine, using free ingredients combined with a fair amount of labor and know-how to turn an odd edible food into a delectable dish.
Here my choices:
View, ambience, real food, rich menu, moderate prices and …did I mentioned the view? Welcome to Il Terrazzino, one of the oldest deck restaurant in Sassi Eustachio Persia welcomed me with a dish of local cold cuts, including my fav lampascioni, bulbs of a common wildflower in southern Italy, then I ordered lamb, and…surprise! iIt came wrapped in yellow strawpaper.
‘This place used to be a cantina, told me Eustachio, just wine, no food.So people used to cook it at home and take it here, all wrapped up in paper tto keep it warm, then tear the bag and eat it paired with a nice glass of wine.Then came the crapiata a soup of different legumes, cereals and potatoes typical of the Basilicata cuisine of rural tradition, prepared in great quantity every year on the first day of August in the district La Martella, close to the cultivated fields and served to the inhabitants. Eustachio took me downstairs, to the 17 century cellar, which incorporates the typical architecture of the Sassi and was refurbished to retrace moments of daily life of the peasant life,
Simple yet elegant restaurant Located in the Sassi area, Baccus is well know for its Chef Carlo Pozzuoli who likes to reinterpretate typical local dishes and flavors of the past in a modern way.
Starting with super crunchy chips of red peppers, followed by fagots of ziti with cream of yellow and red peppers, bundled in a slice of sweet scamorza cheese topped by goat ricotta curlS.
A soupy Dish with tagliolini pasta with black and white chickpeas, considered ideal fro pregnant women, since it contains a lot of iron.
The menu dedicates an attentive search of local herbs, like the cicoriella, the sivone and other fresh leaves variously used in cooking: in salads, minestrone, simply boiled with oil and lemon, or as a filling of ravioli and pansotti or excellent omelettes.
Carlo and his wife Mariella were wonderful hosts. Not only keeping me company at the table but also surprising me with a taste of a sweet heart shaped Sporcamuso, (begrime the face) a dessert so full of cream that I inevitably ended up with hot pastry cream all over my face.
‘We represent the tradition. My family managed this restaurant since the 50’s’ told me Anna, owner of the popular Ristorante Pizzeria Da Mario ‘Since then we are always been loved by the people from Matera and from all over the world. Many celebrities have eaten here: Richard Gere, Mel Gibson just to mention few’
I went there for lunch and followed Anna’s suggestions, starting with a tasty orecchiette alle rape with anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs, then I tried home made strascinati pasta with cardoncelli mushrooms and garnished with the typical crunchy peperone crusco, fried red pepper. Da Mario is know for its pizza. I tried a baby Margherita, perfectly cooked. ‘I love my town, peaceful and quiet, I run the restaurant a cosy BnB called Sassi Belvedere although sometimes I need some noise… some that’s why I have a place in Milan, where I go , like an escape little vacation, but then I am happy to be back in my Lucania ( the ancient name of Basilicata) Sorry I still call it Lucania.. perhaps it’s because I like the old things…
I don’t blame her..
Where I stayed.
Residence San Gennaro, located in the inner courtyard of the old “neighborhood”, once the fulcrum of the days of the inhabitants
Super friendly host Francesco delighted me with anecdotes about the city, gave me tips took me to the prehistoric hypogeous cave below the residence, embellished with a precious Nativity and prepared a great breakfast that included fresh local products. I stayed in Guerricchio suite, that has a kitchenette, a delightful double bedroom, a private bathroom and a cute little balcony to enjoy the view on the enchanting Sassi of Matera. It is At the entrance an artistic work of great value welcomed me. “Girasoli di Guerricchio”, a Lucanian artist to whom the suite is dedicated.
I also loved
An amazing gateway” to the city, charting its history thanks to an innovative communication project, where the walls, the ceilings and the floors will take to an extraordinary journey through the history of Matera from its origins to the present day.
(Museum of Contemporary Sculpture Matera)
This unique museum provides the perfect environment for the symbiosis of sculpture and the characteristic carved sites in the Sassi; the exhibition galleries, in fact, consist not only of the rooms of the Palazzo, but also the vast hypogea, where the works of art are revitalized by the strength and beauty of the surrounding rock hewn spaces