There are many definitions for Matera: imaginary crib, miracle of lime and tuff, natural spectacle. But the truth, in our opinion, is that the Città dei Sassi escapes any definition as it is so dreamy that those who visit it immediately feel enveloped by a sense of estrangement.
Matera between dream and reality
The gaze runs high up, to the Civita, the ancient part with the cathedral and its soaring bell tower.
On the sides are the Sassi, the neighborhoods built on the ravines, the deep calcareous crevasses on the Gravina stream, where the city was sculpted by Gabriele Salvatores, who defined a New York on the contrary: the Big Apple all developed on the top, Matera painted in the subsoil .
On one side, the Sasso Caveoso that looks towards Montescaglioso and on the other the Barisano, oriented towards Bari.
Everywhere houses and steps, ravines and lanes, cave houses and “neighborhoods”. We are in a heritage site of humanity, on which the Unesco flag flies. We are in the “Gospel according to Matthew” by Pierpaolo Pasolini, who was filmed here as well as “The Passion” by Mel Gibson and, among the latest Hollywood films, “Ben Hur” with Morgan Freeman in 2016.
But the Sassi continue to be very popular as a perfect movie set and we happened that, while we were going to the MUSMA for the visit to the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture, we were stuck for a shoot it turns!
For some time we have been planning our visit to MUSMA (www.musma.it), the most important Italian museum entirely dedicated to sculpture and the only cave museum in the world. The great door of Palazzo Pomarici of the sixteenth century leads into an atrium on which there are several hypogean rooms in which works are exhibited that are perfectly integrated into the caves dug into the yellow tuff of Matera.
The MUSMA is in fact an exhibition space where one experiences a continuous symbiosis between the sculptures and the museum spaces, between the built-up areas of the Palace and the large excavated hypogea, where the visitor experiences an ideal integration, of intense emotional impact, almost suspended in time between the past of the walls and the foundation of the building and the 400 works on display.
The collection consists of sculptures, ceramics, multiples, jewelry, medals, drawings, engravings, art books, ranging from the late nineteenth century to today and is set up in two different architectural settings: in the upper floor of Palazzo Pomarici develops a historical-chronological discourse of contemporary sculpture starting from Medardo Rosso up to the most recent avant-gardes, while in the underground rooms of the lower floor and in the courtyards the main theme is the combination of environment and sculpture.
Leaving the museum we were surprised by a heavy downpour and find ourselves without an umbrella between the alleys and the steps of the Sasso Caveoso, for more with a large dog is not the best! We went down to the widening of San Pietro Caveoso and we took refuge under the only balcony in the area waiting for the “rescue” by ApeVito that we will tell you soon in a next episode of #quellavoltache.
Returning to the city, today more than ever Matera is teeming with tourists, Italians and foreigners, who do not want to miss the opportunity to walk in the city chosen as the European Capital of Culture 2019, the first in the south.
Between the Piano, where you can visit some of the most beautiful and important churches of the city such as the Church of San Giovanni Battista, built in 1233 in Romanesque style, with beautiful capitals of the Apulian type that adorn the columns with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and vegetal figures, and an imposing apse.
And up and down the Sassi where every ten steps there is a b&b, a cafe or a restaurant made out of the houses dug into yellow tuff, the same that a decree signed by De Gasperi defined a little more than half a century ago “a shame national” for their dilapidated condition, then became the first Unesco site in southern Italy in 1993.
Halfway between the Sassi and the Piano, like a sort of sentinel, the baroque façade of the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi stands on a steep staircase. Behind it is Piazza del Sedile or “Piazza Maggiore” in the fourteenth century, the market square and then the seat of the governor’s offices, the city’s prisons and the municipal building or “seat”. If you happen to be here at lunchtime, do not miss the snack from L’Arturo (Piazza del Sedile, 15 – Tel. +39 339 3907068) before plunging back into the Barisano or the Caveoso through the two stairways or take Via Duomo for visit the beautiful Cathedral.
If you prefer something more “substantial” tasting the typical specialties of Basilicata, the recommended stop is at La Gattabuia (Via delle Beccherie, 90-92 – Tel. +39 0835 256510), a local carved into the rock that takes the fun name from his past use: these rooms were formerly used as a prison.
With Otto we were accommodated in a small and cozy room where we enjoyed the dishes of the chef from Puglia Gianni Clemente, starting with the indispensable and crispy Senise’s peperoni cruschi to eat as a tantalizing snack with your fingers. Let yourself be enveloped by a glass of Aglianico del Vulture tasting it on spaghettoni with sweet pepper with olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovies and lamb with vegetables.
The walk is completed with the view on the Sassi from the balcony of Piazza Vittorio Veneto where it seems to be suspended on the roofs of the Sasso Barisano that winds under with its maze of neighborhoods, stairways and alleys: a view that every time takes your breath away!
The novelty that we found this time is the piano placed under the portico of the Belvedere Guerricchio available to citizens and tourists who can play it freely.
Before leaving a greeting to our friend Vito Cuscianna, patron of ApeVito (www.apevito.com) the Ferrari red gig that circulates through the city with on board who wants to travel and know the Sassi from a different angle and through the words of a materano doc.