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June 23rd 2011
Published: June 23rd 2011
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Bari to Matera

Wednesday 8th June 2011

Arrived bright and early in Bari on the Superfast overnight ferry from Patras.
Back in a land where our sat nav functions - thankfully - as getting onto the road south proved interesting having to navigate through the congested streets of this port city.

We were headed to Alberobello recommended ( thanks Barry ) as a must see place.
Alberobello is a small town and comune in the province of Bari. It has about 11,000 inhabitants and is famous for its unique Trulli houses part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites list since 1996.

Once we turned west from the coast road the drive became very pleasant across rolling countryside. Here we passed farms and houses built in the Trulli style.
Alberobello is a sizeable town of which the old part is truly Trulli ( oh no ! sorry I couldn't resist that one ). A few streets are heavily geared to the tourist trade however on the opposite side of the valley we found a more authentic area. Here we were invited into the house of an old couple proud to show off their home and explain how it functioned.
We came across a man selling plump sweet local cherries - irresistible and cheap. Well worth the stop and after lunch we set off for another of Barry's hot locations the town of Matera and its cave dwellings.

On arrival at the Matera camp site we were invited to join an excursion to the ancient town, the "Sassi di Matera" (meaning "stones of Matera").
Max and the boys declined the invitation but I decided to join an English couple and guide for what turned out to be an excellent tour.

The Sassi originate from a prehistoric (troglodyte) settlement, and are suspected to be some of the first human settlements in Italy. The Sassi are houses dug into the calcareous rock itself. Many of these "houses" are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. The ancient town grew in height on one slope of the ravine known locally as "la Gravina".
Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses as their ancestors of 9,000 years ago.
Because of the ancient and primitive scenery in and around the Sassi, it has been used by filmmakers as the setting for ancient Jerusalem. The following were filmed in Matera:
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), King David (1985).
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story (2006) and the Omen (2006).

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