Here’s all about the Italian city of Matera as it becomes the focus of the latest episode of Gino D’Acampo’s new TV show.
Gino’s Italy: Secrets of the South first episode (22 October) sees the chef visit Matera, sampling his father’s favourite drink Amaro Lucano and ‘Nun’s Breast’ cakes.
Nestled within the rugged landscapes of southern Italy lies a city like no other. Matera, often referred to as the “City of Stones,” stands as a testament to human resilience, creativity, and a connection to the past. With its ancient cave dwellings, unique architecture, and rich history, Matera has captivated visitors from around the world. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the enchanting city of Matera, exploring its fascinating heritage, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture.
A Window to the Past
Matera’s history dates back thousands of years, making it one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The heart of the city, known as Sassi di Matera (the Stones of Matera), consists of a maze of cave dwellings, carved into the soft tufa rock that surrounds the area. These dwellings, once inhabited by prehistoric humans, have been continuously occupied for over 9,000 years.
The cave homes, often referred to as “sassi,” are an architectural marvel. With their stone facades blending seamlessly with the rocky cliffs, they create a surreal and otherworldly landscape. In recognition of their historical significance, Matera’s ancient cave dwellings were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
A Cultural Renaissance
While Matera’s history is undoubtedly impressive, the city has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. From a once poverty-stricken area with overcrowded cave dwellings, Matera has emerged as a thriving cultural hub. The revival began in the 1950s when government initiatives relocated the residents of the Sassi to new housing. Subsequently, artists, writers, and visionaries began to rediscover Matera’s unique charm.
Today, the Sassi di Matera are teeming with boutique hotels, restaurants, and art galleries, attracting travelers from all corners of the globe. Matera’s renaissance showcases the city’s ability to embrace its past while embracing a vibrant future.
Captivating Film Sets
Matera’s mesmerizing landscapes have caught the attention of filmmakers worldwide. The city has been the backdrop for numerous movies, including Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and the James Bond film “No Time to Die.” Its distinctive and timeless scenery lends an air of authenticity to any cinematic endeavor.
Culinary Delights and A Vibrant Culture
Matera’s culinary scene is a reflection of the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Local dishes feature fresh ingredients such as handmade pasta, olive oil, and cheese, all produced in the surrounding countryside. Be sure to sample traditional dishes like “orecchiette con cime di rapa” (ear-shaped pasta with turnip tops) and “cavatelli al sugo di cavallo” (cavatelli pasta with horsemeat sauce).
Matera’s cultural heritage is alive and thriving. Visitors can explore its historical churches, including the stunning Matera Cathedral and the rock-hewn Church of Madonna delle Virtù. The city also hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating its heritage in music, art, and folklore.
Matera’s unique blend of ancient history and modern revival makes it a city like no other. Its captivating cave dwellings, rich cultural heritage, and thriving culinary scene have solidified its status as a must-visit destination in Italy. As you wander through the winding streets of Matera, you’ll find yourself transported to another time, where the echoes of the past resonate in every stone and cave.