Your Italian Travel Tips – Matera: European Capital of Culture 2019

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Once again, here is a blog with unique travel tips that I would like to share.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

The post for June 2019 was written by Orna O’Reilly, in her blog “Travelling Italy.”  O’Reilly is a former interior designer from Ireland, who also worked for many years in South Africa and Mozambique. Now living in Puglia in the south of Italy, Orna is writing full time and her award winning blog covers all things Italian.  Orna regularly writes for popular Italy Magazine and for glossy Irish magazine Anthology. Word on the street is that Orna will have a new novel out soon, set in modern day Venice and Dublin… Hope to be able to share more about this novel soon!

Orna writes this about Matera:

Dating back over 7000 years, the Sassi are said to be the oldest human habitation in Italy. After the inhabitants were rehoused in the 1950s, many of the caves were restored and, since the 1980s, many of them are now used as hotels, restaurants and homes for those original Sassi dwellers who wished to return.

Having an ancient biblical appearance, in most people’s imagination, over the years Matera has been the setting for at least twenty major movies. These include the obvious candidates, Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew’, though other less likely movies have been filmed there, such as last year’s ‘Wonder Woman.’

In the blog to follow, Orna tells us in detail not only about the history of Matera, but what it is like to visit the city today.  After reading her blog, I felt like visiting myself, and hope to do so one day soon.  All of the highlights of the town are mentioned, with beautiful photos so that one feels they are actually waking down the city streets of Matera with a friend. And, of course, it is important to read to the end of the blog to come to the recommendations for hotels and dining!

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Orna O'Reilly: Travelling Italy

Four hundred metres above sea level, among the rolling hills of Basilicata in southern Italy, lies the haunting city of Matera.

It is bisected by a deep ravine through which the River Gravina flows.

The sides of this deep gorge are studded by ancient cave dwellings known as Sassi, where families lived from Palaeolithic times, right up to the 1950s when the inhabitants were rehoused by the Italian government with the aid of UNESCO.

In 1993, the Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was on the basis that it is the ‘most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem.’ The UNESCO website goes on to say that the ‘first inhabited zone dates from the Palaeolithic, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history.’

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