Between Matera and Montescaglioso, there are about eight thousand hectares characterized by deep cliffs, waterfalls, ravines and caves. Among these, the splendid Crypt of the Original Sin which we have already spoken (https://www.cittameridiane.it/matera-la-cripta-delle-meraviglie/) with its magnificent ninth-century frescoes. The route we suggest is in full agreement with the Matera lifestyle, relaxed and slow, with special attention to the quality of life, in respect of flavors and knowledge of tradition. The route can be made on foot or by bicycle, and traces the ancient salt route that leads from Matera to Montescaglioso.
It is a journey into a timeless dimension that reflects “the road” used to market the salt from the salt, that from marshes of Metaponto, reached Montescaglioso and then Matera. The route starts from the Gravina stream that as we have already announced can now be forded along the rope bridge that connects the two banks. Then, between olive groves, churches and crypts you reach Montescaglioso, the picturesque route destination with its monasteries and Norman churches. In the last part, the salt route overlaps the royal cattle track of Montescaglioso and ends in the Benedictine Abbey of San Michele Arcangelo, one of the artistic masterpieces from Basilicata as well as the more significant and important building of the ancient center of Montescaglioso, the which is mentioned as belonging to the Magna Grecia Lucana already in the eighth century. Small monastery in the beginning of the eleventh century, then continuously expanded and modified over time, enlarges much thanks to the Norman Counts donations and become the pivot of the events around the country through the role played by the Benedictine monks who brought prosperity and development in the surrounding territory.
The visit, which can now only on the ground floor since at the time both the church and the magnificent frescoed library on the second floor is under restoration, includes the two cloisters and refectory, transformed by the Municipality in the 40’s in the cinemas of the town, where stand out of the sixteenth-century frescoes.
During the restoration work of the Abbey of St. Michael, still in progress, they have been carried out archaeological investigations within the warehouse of the monastery, which have unearthed a wall and a sarcophagus burial of the fifth century BC and a pit for casting bells, dating from the XVI century.
Nothing is left instead of the rich abbey furnishings as in 1784, the monks, tired of the constant opposition to the Marquis and the University of Montescaglioso, moved to Lecce where they settled in the former Jesuit college of transferring all the works ‘art, library and archives. To visit the Abbey of St. Michael the Archangel contact +39 334.8360098; tourist information point of the Environmental Education Centre in the Abbey of Montescaglioso.
Returned in the square, the attention is magnetized by the only surviving gate of the six that interspersed the walls of the city: it is Porta Sant’Angelo guarding access to Matera and overlooking the “Regional Natural Archaeological Park of Rock churches of Matera“.
But Montescaglioso despite owes much of his fame to St. Michael the Archangel and the Abbey dedicated to him, is also famous for the large number of caves dug under the town and used as sheep pens and more often as ideal cellar to produce and keep wine thanks to constant temperatures and lack of light. Overall, the cellars of the rock cavity circuit includes over 200 of which more than half are still used.
Other curiosities? Montescaglioso is also known for the band of brigands led by Rocco Chichirigno said Coppolone and his wife Arcangela Cotugno. Before leaving, raised his eyes to the sky: under the tiles of the Abbey nests the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni), a small migratory bird of prey that feeds on small insects such as crickets and comes from South Africa in early March and the end of April to nest between the roof tiles, holes in the walls or on the cornices of the palaces and churches of the historical centers of the villages of Murgia Materana and of Sassi of Matera.
To spot herons, knights of Italy, widgeon, cormorants, coots and many migratory species, it’s necessary, instead, follow the state road 380 which runs along the Bradano river, leads WWF Oasis of San Giuliano, whose artificial lake is a picturesque spot of blue, framed by pine, eucalyptus and Mediterranean bush. Group and school visits are carried out every day, by reservation. The entrance for WWF Membership is free. Info: +39 328 7338268 – firstname.lastname@example.org.