Beauty on the rocks: Matera
With a history dating to Palaeolithic times and a bright future, Materais has been the 2019 European Capital of Culture.
Matera is without doubt one of the most beautiful UNESCO heritage sites, an open-air museum with gourmet restaurants and 5-star hotels. Matera’s ancient beauty is perfectly intact, making it the ideal setting for films such as Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St Matthew” and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ”. Known as the City of Stones or the Underground City, Matera is one of the oldest settlements in the world; parts of the town have been inhabited since the Bronze Age. In recent years, a new wave of artists has moved here with their families, giving the town an international edge. Mikaela Bandini left her native Cape Town to found Area 8, a production and marketing agency by day and a café and theatre by night. Wes Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix can sometimes be seen sipping cocktails whilst listening to music in this multifunctional space. Mariella Stella who was born in Matera and Andrea Paoletti from Piedmont chose to locate their co-working community association, CasaNatural, in the town, which experiments with territorial and social design. The Enoteca dai Tosi winery is located in a historical cave. Its minimal design and layout spans three levels and creates a unique place for meeting friends over a glass of good Italian wine. Several international architectural studios competed to design the enoteca, but the contract was won by the Belgian studio Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu. The interior is almost entirely carved out of stone, from the walls to the ceiling and stairs, to the seating areas and even the wine bottles. A green door leads to a staircase which descends over the three levels; each level is circular with green chairs and hanging green glass lamps in three different shapes, each recalling a wine chalice, made by the finest Venetian glassmakers. Since it opened in 2017, the Enoteca dai Tosi has become an integral part of Matera, a wonderful place to meet, to chat, to taste wine, in perfect harmony with its surroundings and symbolic of Matera’s rich past and exciting future. If you want to know more about the history and culture of Matera, we recommend you visit the Casa Noha. This house at Sasso Caveoso, once belonged to the Noha family who donated it to the Italian National Trust (FAI). It is carved from the surrounding tufa and has vault ceilings. In the rooms of the house you can watch videos projected onto the ancient walls which explain the history of Matera’s ‘Sassi’. We also recommend the Museo Laboratorio della Civiltà Contadina, in Via San Giovanni Vecchio, which is devoted to Matera and its surroundings and above all to the humble people whose culture and traditions have shaped its territory and history.
Visiting Matera is an emotional experience, and if you are looking for something extra, you could explore the underground city. The Ipogeo Materasum is a walk through time and space, taking in houses, streets and places of worship that are hidden under the city. It really is an unforgettable experience.