With Le Grotte della Civita Daniele Kihlgren has once again hit the mark by hitting straight to the heart. Because if Matera is already an enchantment, the magic doubles when you stay in one of the eighteen cave-houses of the widespread hotel in the Civita district of the city dug into the ridge just below the Cathedral dedicated to the Madonna della Bruna.
The charm of the cave houses
Because Daniele has a rare gift: that of transforming into absolute beauty what was destined to decay and abandonment. He did it in Abruzzo, in Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a village that emptied out in the mid-1950s and was reborn thanks to the recovery work that gave life to the first Sextantio.
In Basilicata it made an encore with Le Grotte della Civita, in one of the oldest districts of Matera and also one of the last to be redeveloped. The proximity to the stream and the fear of mosquitoes that carried the deadly malaria up to the mid-1900s, admirably narrated by Levi in his “Christ Stopped at Eboli”, in addition to the mackerel of those who lived there dictated by law in 1952, for decades they have kept people away from these places which have remained intact in their heartbreaking beauty and, at the same time, all to be rebuilt in order to be re-inhabited.
And it is here that Kihlgren’s magical touch intervened: pipes and heating have been hidden under the floors recovered in their imperfection derived from the trampling of men and animals. And who knows if the high vaults and walls dug into the tuff and covered with irregular blocks of stone could speak how many stories they would tell!
Available to today’s visitors to Le Grotte della Civita, included among the ten most beautiful hotels in the world, the modernity of the bathrooms and services that do not betray the authenticity of the environments of the Classic, Superior, Suite and Executive Suite rooms, they differ from each other in terms of size.
The fresh fruit, the water in the carafe that recalls those of the past, the linen and cotton sheets, the candles scattered everywhere, make you feel wrapped up in spaces steeped in millenary history. Certainly one of the fundamental reasons why Le Grotte della Civita are chosen by a 98% foreign clientele, but we assure you that they have the power to enchant everyone, even those like us who have always frequented these places and known them in a state of abandonment in which they poured until the end of the 90s, before the “Kihlgren cure”.
And we were captivated by their atmosphere when, after two visits to Santo Stefano di Sessanio, the first with Arturo and the second with Otto, we experienced the thrill of sleeping in a cave-house in Matera. Our Sognidoro at Le Grotte della Civita were reconciled by the intimate and romantic aura of Grotta 17, where even Otto found his comfortable spaces and a personalized welcome kit.
For us humans, the smiles and warm welcome of the director Ninfa and Pietro who accompanied us to the suggestive deconsecrated church dating back to the 13th century and carved into the rock, now used as a breakfast room and by reservation also for dinner.
Inside our cave, a pleasant warmth and the faint light of the many candles invited us to relax and we immediately took the opportunity to enjoy a bath in the spectacular tub that emerges on the floor like a huge white shell and to rest on the very comfortable anatomical mattress.
Even if Matera is always worth a walk and the position of Le Grotte della Civita, located halfway between the Sassi Barisano and Caveoso and below the Cathedral, invites you to explore the most picturesque areas of the city, it was not easy to “abandon” the our cave-house in which all three of us immediately found our ideal shell.
Moreover, Matera reserved for us a little spring day with rigid temperatures that convinced us even more to stay under the tuff vaults of our welcoming home. And to think that until May 2009 these caves were made almost inaccessible by the degradation that over time had taken over the area reduced to an illegal dump, a drug dealing area and even a concentration camp for pit bulls held in precarious conditions.
So here too Daniele Kihlgren wanted to develop a complete recovery project safeguarding the territorial identity starting from the respect of the original materials up to the proposal, in the sumptuous breakfast in the morning, of local delicacies, from cold cuts and cheeses to focaccia and cakes prepared in the kitchens housed in the innermost rooms of the medieval church.
Speaking of breakfast: it deserves a separate chapter! First of all because the table where the altar was once located was reserved for us and Otto, a sort of privée in which we were able to enjoy the sweet and savory delicacies arranged on the richly set tables without creating any disturbance to the other guests and, allow us the term since it is a church, albeit deconsecrated, in peace. Choosing among so many delights was not easy.
Four tables with all sorts of good things: exquisite dairy products, local cheeses and cured meats, focaccia and rustic pizzas, fruit juices, yoghurt, donuts, plum cakes, jam tarts, chocolate cake and the typical Easter sweets. Really difficult to eat everything but we tried to do our best by honoring one of the richest breakfasts of our Sognidoro.
And it is hard to leave this place, where you can enjoy all the poetry of Matera while admiring from the panoramic terraces overlooked by the caves that wind on three levels, the Murgia National Park which extends in front of it like a marvelous proscenium in which the work of man has completed that of nature.
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita
Via Civita, 28 (Sasso Barisano) – Matera
Info: +39 0835 332744 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile/WhatsApp: +39 347 5216592