Matera is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. When you see it for the first time, it really makes an impression. Houses were built on the rock and partly dug out of the stone. Some streets are actually built on top of other houses. The old part of Matera is called Sassi and originates back to 7000 BC. One can easily imagine going back in time, which is a reason why also several movies were filmed there, for example, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
Matera used to be one of the poorest and saddest cities in Italy. Up to 50 years ago people there lived in simple cave dwellings without running or hot water. It was dirty, and there were diseases spread. People worked all the time and began working already as children. Then 50 years ago all people were moved to a new part with of Matera into modern apartments by their government. Nowadays, Matera is a beautiful town to visit with many restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. It is under Unesco’s protection.
We spent a relaxing morning in Matera. When we were strolling along the streets, in some parts it was just us, and we saw only a few tourists. We saw the cathedral and got lost in the small streets. We visited a cave which was reconstructed to look like a home which was left 50 years ago. It was a home for one family. Also, animals (horses, chicken) were sleeping inside in order not to be stolen. We were surprised how humble the dwelling was.
Like everywhere we go, we tried as many local foods as possible. As an appetizer, we ordered bruschetta made from Matera bread with tomatoes, rocket and extra virgin olive oil which was very good. For the main dish, we ordered pasta with sausages which was delicious. We also tried one of the typical dishes of Basilicata (the area where Matera is situated). It is called pane cotto and means cooked bread. Maybe we expected too much but it was not all that good. Soggy soft bread soaked in some shapeless green vegetable.
If you want to know more about Matera’s recent history, there is a nice article online: link.