Cultural Capital 2019 of Europe; the city . An ancient jewel in the south of Italy, despite its warm Mediterranean climate, this winter covered under snow.

Italian town was virtually unknown, even to Italians. However that changed after Matera got nominated and awarded for European Cultural capital in 2019. That has changed the game for good.
In the southern region of Basilicata, in the so-called arch of the boot, lies Matera – a magical city that is about two million years old and still bears the scars and fossils of a long, tortured history. Despite its unbelievable beauty and historical importance, for decades Matera was considered “la vergogna” (the shame) of Italy.
Still in the 950s it was discovered that in many of the 3000 cave homes, up to 10 people lived together with animals, no proper hygiene, no sewerage or water filtration systems. The government intervened and evicted most residents from the “Sassi” (loosely translated as stones), nearly ending continuous inhabitation that began in Palaeolithic times.

Today the cave dwellings, which were half carved out by the sea millennia ago and half built into the tufo rock, are arguably the greatest drawcard of the city. Since the ’80s, regeneration projects have returned life to the historical centre and many of the caves have been restored or reborn as boutique hotels, evocative bed and breakfasts or cafes serving local fare. Still a third of the homes remain abandoned. They generate a calmness and energy that must be felt. Though the magical place is rapidly changing, attracting more and more travelers from all over the world; new suites, hotels open at high velocity. Let’s hope it’s genuinity will stay preserved.

text by Candice Keller

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