The next morning Matera has rewarded us with a warm sunny and bright day. And after a hearty breakfast in the dining room made by the ancient spaces excavated in the rock, including pastries braids that reminded us the flavors of our childhood and of a high-calorie, but delicious focaccia mixed with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sugar, we met in the Piazza San Giovanni with Vito Cuscianna, by Matera for generations, who with his Apecar (Tour dei Sassi con ApeVito – tel. +39 393 1772506 – www.apevito.comapevitomatera@gmail.com) showed us a Matera for us still unpublished.

Sun-kissed between Sassi in Matera

Turning to the few roads driveways in the heart of the city, it is the full motivation of integration in 1993 of Sassi of Matera among the “world heritage to be passed on to future generations”, and the in the list among the 395 wonders of the world.

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And with Vito, along Via Buozzi, via Madonna delle Virtù and Via D’Addozio with a balcony at the foot of St. Augustine overlooking the Sassi and the Gravina stream, we retrace also the history of Matera which is that of his grandparents who experienced the full passage of the city from “national shame”, as was defined by Alcide De Gasperi in 1950 for social degradation conditions in which the population lived, a world treasure that each year attracts thousands of visitors.

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The most impressive view is enjoyed from the Belvedere of Murgia Timone, a short walk from the city. Among the old stone churches like San Falcione and that of Madonna delle Tre Porte, graze herds of placid Podolica cows, by bighorn and the gray mantle.

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The lunch break is in Piazza del Sedile by l’Arturo (Piazza del Sedile15, tel. +39 339 3907068 – www.larturo.com), an institution in the city with his sandwiches and stuffed buns of meats and cheeses: for us a welcome return.

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Going down towards the Sasso Caveoso, the first stop is Santa Maria de Idris, in the rocky outcrop which rises above the neighborhood. To Idris, through a passage way to the main altar left, leads to the frescoed crypt of San Giovanni in Monterrone.

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Then, descending, you arrive in Piazza San Pietro Caveoso, where there is also the homonymous church, the only one not dug out of tufa, which preserves a Romanesque bell tower. From the square, passing under a huge arch, you reach a large balcony overlooking the spectacular ravine and that leads to the church of Santa Lucia alle Malve, where you can admire many of the twelfth century frescoes including that splendid depicting the Madonna del Latte. In Sasso Barisano are, however, the rock churches of San Nicola dei Greci, with its beautiful thirteenth-century frescoes, and Madonna delle Virtù, dating back to the XI-XII century, in which the cultural association “La Scaletta” (www. lascaletta.net) regularly organizes interesting exhibitions (Visits Coop. Cave Heritage, tel. +39 377 4448885 – www.caveheritage.it info@caveheritage.it).

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Very breathtaking is the visit to San Pietro Barisano, the biggest rock church in the city, which boasts among its jewels underground sites for the “draining” of the corpses, funeral practice reserved for priests whose bodies were placed seated in stone benches and removed after the decomposition. Unfortunately, many works of art have been stolen or damaged during the ’60s and’ 70s when with the Sassi also the churches were abandoned. For visits to the rock churches of Santa Maria de Idris, San Giovanni in Monterrone, Santa Lucia alle Malve and San Pietro Barisano contact the Cooperativa Oltre l’Arte that organizes them every day (for schedules and tickets tel. +39 327 9803776 – +39 345 9391659 – www.oltrelartematera.itinfo@oltrelartematera.it).

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In Civita stands the Duomo, authentic masterpiece of Romanesque architecture built between 1230 and 1270, and finally visited after 13 years of restoration. The interior is characterized by the seventeenth-century decorations but has a set of very interesting capitals products under the influence of Frederick sites of Puglia.

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Capitals are substantially identical in the church of San Giovanni Battista, one of the oldest and most evocative churches of the city, the Romanesque portal which is a real embroidery topped by a rosette. The curiosity? The current entrance is located on the right wall as the main façade was walled by the old hospital built in 1610. Very interesting original bulbs inside decorated by the Maltese cross and elephants on the outside of the apse, under the spire, one of the few original parts of the whole church rebuilt several times.

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So Matera is a true open-air museum, but it is also worth visiting its museums. Very rich National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata housed in the stately Palazzo Lanfranchi, the highest expression of Baroque architecture of the city (Piazzetta Pascoli 1, tel. +39 0835 310137-256262). In large halls sacred works from churches in the region, the 300 paintings of the Neapolitan school of the “D’Errico Collection” and the sections dedicated to Carlo Levi and Luigi Guerricchio.

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The Dante’s Inferno described by Carlo Levi in his famous book Christ Stopped at Eboli is now found painted on the same Levi at the Palazzo Lanfranchi ground floor panels: you are amazed in front of this immense insight into the life of the time in the houses-cave in “neighborhoods” with animals, men, women and children who were living in the same spaces.

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But do not look for the sundial: on the high wall of the large cloister has remained an empty rectangle but about the first measure of the time there is no trace!

If fatigue (in Matera, you turn feet and between climbs, descents and steps and muscles and joints are stressed a lot) and hunger take over, it’s time to stop and have dinner somewhere. In the city you eat well everywhere. We recommend two places tested and approved by us. The first is Oi Marì in Rione Sassi (Via Fiorentini 66, tel. +39 0835 346121 – +39 339 4086680 – +39 329 9370997 – contatti@oimari.it), where you can enjoy the first and second courses of excellent local raw materials like “pezzente” sausage and Podolica steak from Pollino, but also a Neapolitan pizza.

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The second is Il Pettolino (via Ridola, 59 – tel. +39 0835 310269 – +39 333 8407878 – info@ilpettolino.it), a housewife bistro to enjoy the pettole, pancakes made from durum wheat flour, water, salt and yeast, typical cuisine of Puglia and Basilicata, which piping hot and fragrant arrive immediately on the table as a welcome gift: a true goodness! We suggest you order ”la cassetta”, a complete replacement of the dinner aperitif served in nine faience cocottes placed in a wooden platter served with a good local beer.

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