Wandering about in the Sassi of Matera

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Matera

There is always a good reason to visit Matera. Whether you go for the first time or return for a walk, the city of the Sassi always reserves beautiful surprises! In addition, it should be emphasized that this is a very ” friendly pets” city and that Arturo was able to share with us many of our experiences. This time we decided to live it fully, staying overnight, wandering far and wide and most important visiting above and below the ground for two days.

Infact Matera is a city developing on the surface with its beautiful palaces and squares, but also in the underground, that is, below the streets and step by step it reveals caves, mazes, rock dwellings and houses carved in the rock, churches and even ancient cisterns. And it is from the largest cistern in the city, called Palombaro Lungo below the central Piazza Vittorio Veneto (for visits contact the Association GTA Basilicata +39 339 3638332), that we started our tour of the European Capital of Culture for 2019, World Heritage Site by Unesco since 1993.
Matera has seven “palombari”, water cisterns , three of which can be visited. These “palombari”, until the first decades of the last century, represented the sources of water supply for the entire city. The so-called Lungo, developed under the main square and through an elaborate network of canals brought water from a natural source located at the foot of the Castle Tramontano to the waterproof tank covered in earthenware, which could contain up to five million liters of spring and rainwater. The term “ palombaro” derives from the Latin “plumbarius” indicating the person who was responsible for the maintenance of lead pipes of the or water main. The tour, which is very interesting takes into the bowels of the earth and, through stepladders and iron catwalks suspended on the well filled with water, proceeds to the different areas of the tank and to the base of the tower that is located below the Convent of the Annunziata.

After visiting the underworld, following the suggestion of Arturo Fabiano owner of L’Arturo, a delicatessen and wine bar located in the intimate and chic Piazza del Sedile, and also owner with his wife Monica, of the homonymous B&b where we stayed overnight (we will tell about this in the section Sogni d’oro: https://www.cittameridiane.it/en/at-arturos/), we booked a tour of the city with the Apecar by Pasquale Cantore and Rocco, his inseparable four-legged friend (Apetourmatera +39 339 4656553).
Touring Matera on Pasquale apecar at sunset , when the warmer light illuminates the scenes of the Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano and the sky turns into a deep blue, is definitely a show not to be missed and one of the things to remember to do at least once in one’s lifetime. On board the small vehicle, driving through memorable glimpses and the touching tales of Pasquale who in the Sassi lived his childhood, we saw Matera with different eyes.
From Piazza del Sedile, located at the Piano, the old town with most impressive buildings dating from 1600 to today, we climbed the Civita, the oldest part of Matera where between 1230 and 1270 the cathedral was built in Apulian romanesque style. But the more exciting ride was that to the Sassi. Not only for the postcard images that are still imprinted in our memory: the façade nestled in the rock of the church of San Pietro Barisano, the wide eyes of niches of the rock churches of Santa Maria delle Virtù and of San Nicola dei Greci, the rocky spur with the monastery of Sant’Agostino, on the top of which stands Santa Maria de Idris, only to name the most striking ones.
But for real life stories those that Pasquale told us and will remain forever engraved in our hearts. He told us that when he was a child he could not complain about the rain flowing from the ceiling of his room, because only those who proved to live in extreme conditions were assigned a new home. He told us, getting emotional, about the day his family was finally allowed to move and about his request to keep at least the number of his first house, which was given to him only after it was split in two, because the old owners, all moved to working class districts built for them, had no longer rights on the old houses, now the property of the government.

When we return, it’s night already and Matera looks like a nativity scene to be enjoyed first looking out at at Sasso Caveoso from Piazza Pascoli and then strolling along Via Ridola, stopping at the I Vizi degli Angeli (via Ridola 36, +39 0835 310637 – open daily from 11 to 24 except Wednesdays) to have an ice cream that is a real treat, and then continuing along Via del Corso, and onto the Sasso Barisano going through the balcony of Santo Spirito in Piazza Vittorio Veneto.

(Traduzione di Monia Saponaro)