Our ninth day of travel, the first on the way to home, leads us to discover the city of Matera, one of the first place included in our itinerary as well as one of the cities I dreamt to visit for years. The city of Matera is about 2.40 hours from our campsite, along the way we had to stop at the Decathlon of Cavallino (in the province of Lecce) to replace our mattress (probably I will write an article dedicated to camping equipment in which I will explain more in detail what happened).
The origins of Matera are very old, as evidenced by some findings of Paleolithic age that document the presence of some settlements in many caves scattered along the Gravine. The first urban center (probably of Greek origin) was born during the metal age, in a position that corresponds to the current urban center.
In the following years Matera intensified its relations with the colonies of Magna Graecia, later, during the Roman age, it was a simple place of passage and supply. In 664 d.C. Matera passed under the Longobard domination and was annexed to the Duchy of Benevento. The 9th and 10th centuries were characterized by bitter struggles between the Lombards themselves, the Saracens and the Byzantines, who tried several times to seize the territory; the city was destroyed by the troops of Ludwig II, emperor of the Franks, in an attempt to remove out the Saracens.
Starting from the eighth century the territories were affected by a migration of Benedictine and Byzantine monks, who settled in caves along the Gravina, turning them into rocky churches (some of which are still existing). In the following centuries Matera will be “City Regia” (free from the feudal feudal), only under the control of the Aragonese it was ceded to Count Giovan Carlo Tramontano, who in 1514 was killed by the oppressed population due to taxes.
Matera was the first city in the South to rise up against the Nazis, during the day of September 21, 1943. In 1948 the question of the “Sassi” of Matera was born, raised by Palmiro Togliatti first, and by Alcide De Gasperi then. In 1952 a national law established the eviction of the “Sassi” and the construction of new residential areas that developed the new city in which the 15,000 inhabitants of the “Sassi” converged. In 1980 it was partially damaged by the Irpinia earthquake and by the following shocks. In 1986 a new national law financed the recovery of the ancient Matera districts, now degraded for over thirty years of neglect.
In 2014 Matera was designated as European Capital of Culture for 2019. It is the first city in southern Italy to receive this recognition, obtained after entering a short list that included the candidacies of five other Italian cities (Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia, Ravenna, Siena).
Our visit to the city of Matera begins just before lunch time, when, after three endless hours of travel, we finally reach the viewpoint of Murgia Timone (Google Maps), located on the other side of the Gravina stream compared to the city center. From the belvedere you can enjoy an excellent view of the city and its “Sassi” (the districts of Matera), also, along the dirt road that descends along the mountain, you have access to some of the ancient caves and rockychurches described above. The same path should, at least in theory, descend to the bank of the stream, cross it thanks to a bridge, and then lead to the entrance of Matera.
Unfortunately, after covering the first half of the trail (to reach the course of the stream we took more than half an hour), we found the access of the bridge barred by orders of local police, who reported possible hydrogeological risks in the area. For this reason my advice is to NOT walk the path, given the absence of information seriously risk to make our own end.
Once back to the parking we were “surprised” by a storm (which fortunately had been predicted by the weather service and that would not last more than an hour), so we decided to have lunch inside our car, waiting for weather getting better, before starting our real visit to the city.
Our visit to Matera begins at the stadium (Google Maps), where we leave our car before starting the walk between the “Sassi” of Matera. From the parking area we reach Piazza Vittorio Veneto (Google Maps), which overlooks the Church of Santa Lucia and Agata alla Fontana and below which there is the Palombaro Lungo cistern, which we decide to not visit (unfortunately the time available to us is insufficient). We prefer to continue walking to the Belvedere Luigi Guerricchio (Google Maps) from which we enjoy a wonderful view of the Sassi of Matera, and then lose ourselves among the countless streets, terraces, squares and churches that characterize this incredible city.
In the late afternoon, after walking for several hours to the center of Matera, we returned to our car and took the road that separated us from the Camping Baia San Giorgio (where we had already stayed few days before). In conclusion, our visit of Matera has given to us strong emotions but at the same time has not fully met our expectations. The city enjoys spectacular views, moreover many squares and many streets are really characteristic, but some areas of the city are still in a state of neglect and degradation. In any case I’m really happy to have visited Matera, I hope to have an opportunity to come back in the future.
In two weeks I will publish the tenth article about this incredible road trip. In the meantime enjoy the photos!