Matera in Basilicata

I'm getting horribly behind on telling you all about Southern Italy. As usual I have no discipline, I'm getting stuck into planning the next trip before I've finished blogging about the last one! Consequently I'm not doing Puglia or our other destinations any justice. There's so much more to say about  the food, Lecce, Naples, the ruins and Ischia among many other possible topics.

But before I get completely distracted by upcoming plans (more on that later...) I should focus enough to let you know about a few more of the stops we made, including the beautiful hillside city of Matera. Matera is an amazing place with an incredible history. A city of cave houses (called sassi) carved out of the soft volcanic rock. Houses are carved one beneath the other as they made their way down the hillside.
There are two main things you will hear when you visit Matera, first  that the publication of Carlo Levi's book in 1952 describing the primitive conditions of the sassi dwellers in Matera shamed the Italian nation, and secondly that The Passion of Christ,  and numerous other movies, were filmed here. What is meaningful about these two much repeated points, is that the intact beauty of hill city, which attracts film makers and tourists alike, is a function of its impoverished past and subsequent abandonment. Following the scandalous exposure of the conditions in which people were living in Levi's book, including no running water or sewerage and extraordinarily high rates of infant mortality, twenty thousand occupants of the sassi were driven out in a central government campaign of modernization in the 1950s. The old city they had occupied lay abandoned and in many ways untouched until the 1980s when local efforts encouraged re-urbanization, which was later  fueled by the designation of the sassi as a World Heritage site in  1993.
Matera is an incredibly photogenic place with churches, chapels and homes to visit. There is so much to see and learn about how people lived here but what is great about Matera is that in addition to the sassi the "new" town has some great sites too. We were there for a festival and it was lit up like Las Vegas!
Tip: Getting in and out of the old town is extremely difficult. You will need help to find your hotel GPS will be of no use. Park you car and ask for directions.

Recommended Guide for Matera: Matera is a great place for a good guide and I can highly recommend Nadia Garlatti who I found through a recommendation on Fodors. Nadia was fun, informative, engaged and passionate about Matera, I can't think of a better way to see the city than with her. Nadia's rates are extremely reasonable and you can reach her directly at

Guida turistica ed escursionistica autorizzata in italiano ed inglese
via Passarelli, 47
75100 - MATERA (Italia)
tel. ab. 0835-333214
tel. cel. 347-8548845
partita IVA 01067770774

Nadia leading us through the alleys.