Matera Italy, but you may know it as Jerusalem


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October 31st 2016
Published: October 31st 2016
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Naples to Matera


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Overview
Day 272 Sunday 16th October 2016 – Naples to Matera



If this hotel had a dog house that’s where I would be because I snored all night which was really annoying because Shelley kept punching me to wake me and the girl has a mean left hook. Woke feeling tired and bruised and just wished she would just get used to the sweet night noises I make or otherwise leave me alone so at least one of us can get a good night’s sleep. Luigi the hotel owner once again served up great Italian coffee, cut fruit and homemade cakes while sitting on the terrace. It is hard to express how much we love Naples and this hotel, sitting here with a coffee in hand directly behind a HUGE cathedral with Sunday bells ringing whilst gazing at Vesuvius – this is Italy at its best.



Packed our bags and cleared out of the hotel and marched the twenty minutes down to the bus station with our bags which are now even heavier with our Naples souvenirs. Not a lot of signage at the Naples bus station in fact there is none, so it
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Inside the old cistern
was sort of pot luck where we waited but it is clean and looks fairly new. Instinct or luck was on our side as our bus rolled up almost exactly where we were standing and we were soon onboard and underway. Travelling with Flixbus today and the leg room was almost non-existent and wasn’t helped when the woman in front reclined her chair right onto my knees and refused to acknowledge our requests to move her chair back up slightly – the joys of travel.



Loved the scenery on this trip with small mountains, vineyards, farms, lovely Italian towns and heaps of wind turbines which seems to signify progressive European thinking and to a brighter future. Stopped at the coastal town of Bari before finally arriving at our destination of Matera at 3.20pm. I had checked out our GPS and had figured we were to be dropped at the town’s bus station which was a ten minute walk from our hotel but instead we were dropped on the outskirts of town 2.5km away. It is a Sunday and despite there being a taxi rank nearby there was no taxis in sight so our only option was to
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Matera from the valley
hoist our bags and start walking. Thought somewhere along the way we would find a taxi but of course we didn’t and to make matters worse we initially had a long incline to walk up before hitting the downhill section. Took us 45 minutes before we got to our hotel and must say I was pretty glad to get there as we are both now carrying over 25kgs and on a warm day it is a struggle.



The hotel is supposed to have a reception that is open till 8.30 at night but of course got there and it was closed and locked and had to phone the owner to get him to come and open up. When he arrived 15 minutes later he told us how he had rang our home phone number to find out when we would arrive, yet another mix up that had our friends back home being dragged out of bed to talk to some confused hotel owner. On the upside for Michele he was a good looking Italian lad that had her forgiving him for any confusion and blaming me – need to watch this one. He got us into our
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Matera at night
room and gave us a good run down on all the attractions in town before letting us loose.



We had come to Matera seeking a quiet Italian town that we had seen on a documentary just before leaving Australia, it looked quirky yet unspoilt and a good base to revive our batteries before heading to Rome. What we found was a town that was pristine steam cleaned and overrun with thousands and thousands of tourists – first impressions were not good. Discovered that this town has been in countless movies as a stand in for Jerusalem and here is a list of some of the main moves:


Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964).Bruce Beresford's King David (1985).Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004).Abel Ferrara's Mary (2005).<li style="margin: 0px 0px 13px; color:񑘕 line-height: normal; font-family: 'Verdana',sans-serif; font-size: 10pt; font-style: normal;
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Cliff top Church
font-weight: normal;">Catherine Hardwicke's The Nativity Story (2006).Cyrus Nowrasteh's The Young Messiah(2016)Timur Bekmambetov's Ben-Hur (2016)


Partly because of this new found fame as Jerusalem, tourists have been flocking here and the town has now become an Italian tourist magnet. It is Sunday 5pm so don’t panic about seeing the sights and fighting the tides of tourists, let’s just get a drink and a feed. Restaurants and drinks we soon discovered were at Venice prices so just had a couple of beers and a cheap kebab which I had been craving all day, before going home for an early night.







Day 273 Monday 17th October 2016 – Matera



At a bit past midnight a small tour group of women came into our B&B hotel and proceeded to raise the roof with their high pitched laughter and shouting. Only 4 other rooms in this place and we have the room at the top of the stairwell so the sound echoed up like they were
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Matera and the moon
shouting through our door. After ten minutes the noise only got louder and to my surprise Shelley hadn’t told them off so I took on the duty. I know a few Italian swear words and a couple of English ones too but kept it nice and professional and just shouted down to them to shut up and reminded them others were in the building. Thankfully we got shouted apologies and instant quiet. In the morning the 8 women who were responsible for the noise apologised profusely to us as well as the owner who had turned up, by now all was forgiven and forgotten. Breakfast wasn’t exactly great but the coffee was good, and after phoning home we hit the streets.



First on the agenda was looking at getting laundry done and discovered the conveniently located laundromat down the road was inconveniently closed – permanently, so I guess we maybe reusing our reused smelly clothes again. Next was tickets out of here which took a bit of searching but on the second tour agency we picked up bus tickets for Thursday morning, but not too sure where the buses leave from -hopefully we figure that out before
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Crowded village life
then. Last chore was new shoes for me as the $300 hiking boots I picked up before leaving Australia have literally fallen to bits. Had hoped that my boots would just last another two weeks till we go home but no they are now officially R.S. walked around the new town for a bit till I found a discount shoe shop where I got a cheap pair of boots for 30 Euros that might just last the next couple of weeks providing it doesn’t rain.



Now it was time to look over the old town of Matera, which has had a long an interesting history. The town is an ancient troglodyte settlement that was created on the slopes of a ravine. Not only did people live in homes inside caves but also in block homes that were then built on top of other homes. The Romans were here (of course) and the town grew but was then forgotten. In September 1943 Matera was the first town to rise up against the Nazi occupation of Italy but by the 1950’s the town inhabitants were viewed as living in squalor by the Italian Government so they forcibly relocated most
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Walking trail to the other side
of the inhabitants from the old town. Fast forward to today and the town is a polished tourist gem overrun with thousands of tourists most of which are local Italians. Most of the rough stone and caves homes are now B&B’s with a sprinkling of souvenir shops and restaurants. Traffic is mostly restricted and there are lots of pedestrian pathways around the top of the ravine and down the slope amongst the buildings. Michele had seen a travel show before we left home showing this town as a rough diamond and something unique and we now suspect the show was either 10 years old or just plain bullshit. The town is beautiful and walking around it you find heaps of gorgeous lookouts that show the town off at its best. We both do love this place but it isn’t what we expected.



Stopped for a late lunch before heading home and dropping off our purchases and a short rest. Our 29th anniversary tonight so decided we would hit the town and get a great feed but unfortunately discovered the big shortcoming of this town – the restaurants have adhoc opening hours and days it seems they alternate
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High speed pursuit police car
who is opened and closed. A lot of cafes and bars that cater for day trippers from other Italian towns but not a lot in the way of restaurants (or so we thought). Walked around for ages before settling for an average meal at an average restaurant, our only other alternative was an “anniversary kebab”. Walking home at 9pm we discovered lots of restaurants that had been closed earlier were now open so now know that this is a late dining town.



We did pick up a nice bottle of red wine to have on the terrace of our room as a celebration of 29 years.







Day 274 Tuesday 18th October 2016 – Matera



Because we had such a lovely slow day yesterday Shelley thought we ought to do something more active today so decided we should do the walk across the ravine to the hill on the other side of town. Standing in town it looked like it was going to be a killer walk but was really bit of a stroll and despite all the warnings at the start about wearing proper shoes,
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Down by the river
hats and bringing plenty of water, it wasn’t too hard. I wore my hiking boots for the very last time and they were utterly destroyed at the end, but it only took an hour to cross over to the other side, and my boots were stuffed anyway. A small river runs at the bottom of the ravine and is crossed by a well-made suspension bridge and the views along the way are fantastic. On the other side there are a few cave churches, one dating back to the 11th Century AD, as well as a carpark for those that would rather drive. Lots of caves are dotted around that were former homes as well as water cisterns and such. It was a great walk and although cloudy when we started out we came back in sunshine.



In the afternoon we had an important chore to get done – clothes washing. Thankfully the hotel owner had told us of another laundromat 10 minutes away so we grabbed up all our stinking clothes and took off to get them cleaned. As usual it took a few minutes to work out how the machines worked, and then had them washed
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Suspension Bridge
and dry in a bit over an hour. On our walk home the clouds moving back over and it didn’t look good. Dropped off our clothes and went for a drink down at a nearby café, then when we went looking for food it started to rain. We didn’t have a lot of options last night for dinner but with rain we had even less tonight. Ended up settling for some fast food and running home before it started to pour.





Day 275 Wednesday 19th October 2016 – Matera



After a quick breakfast and chat with a German group we descended the hill again and walked around some of the older and unrestored sections of town but this will be changing soon. There are so many cranes and building sites that the lovely old world charm is disappearing quickly. We wonder if any of the people here now are original residents and how they must feel seeing their old homes being turned into high revenue B&Bs and restaurants, not sure but assume that the government moved them out meaning they lost ownership of these places and now others are benefitting??
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Clothesline through scaffold




To explain the town there are 3 parts, the prehistoric troglodyte cave homes, the ancient to medieval area which grew up the slope of the ravine on top of each other (these areas are known as the Sassi) and then the modern section. Of course there is a church on every corner like Australia oh no that would be a pub. It is lovely but maybe changing too fast into something that will become uninteresting but lucky for us we are not quite there yet.



We have decided to do the tour of the underground cistern that is found under Piazza Vittorio Veneto it is nice diversion from all the churches. It is smaller than the one in Istanbul and not as impressive but has an interesting history but the guide was a bit confusing. We think it started as private houses’ in the 18th century, turned into a water cistern and grew and somehow was forgotten and then in the 1990’s it was found when a workman doing work on the piazza fell through the ground into the water. Now we do not claim this is factual as it was lost in translation,
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Boots stuffed
the tour guide info was stilted but the general chit chat was humorous and engaging. She is concerned that Matera will lose its UNESCO rating as it has 2 black strikes already and the money that has been given is not showing any benefits. It is due to a lack of local work ethics for the following reasons:



Summer – it’s too hot to work



Autumn – it’s too much rain



Winter – it’s too cold



Spring – it’s too windy



And to break it down more:



Monday – too tired from the weekend



Tuesday and Friday – it is bad luck to start a project, get married or travel on these days



Wednesday and Thursday – this is the middle of the week why start anything now?



Saturday and Sunday – it’s a holiday



She was quite passionate and worried about the future of the town and although it sounds funny in the end will damage the town. We are not sure what the black marks are for, but
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Suspension Bridge - about to cross
maybe the rampant development and changing the fabric of the town from rustic raw dwellings into 4 star B&Bs alongside a swanky café, with no original essence left.



Moving on from that rave we have decided on a late lunch and anniversary celebration so we are heading off to a small deli/restaurant for a local cheese and meat platter topped with a local rose wine. It was absolutely fantastic with great combinations of spicy, sour, fresh and sweet with lovely service no pressure and just off the main piazza in a relaxed outside space.



Took it easy in the afternoon and then went for a final walk and a late pizza. Matera was not exactly what we were expecting but in the end was a fantastic breath of fresh air before our final trip destination – the eternal city of Rome.


Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 29


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Church Frescos
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Sort of looks like Jerusalem.
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Church
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Town from the other side
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Matera, the old town
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Part of the ancient town
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One of the cave churches


31st October 2016

A rose by any other name... Jerusalem?
I will have to google Matera as I don't know anything about it. Despite the tourists and Venice prices, Matera looks superb in your photos. But p.s. Rome is the final destination of the TRIP? Wowsers!
1st November 2016

A rose by any other name... Jerusalem?
Matera was actually really beautiful it just wasn't what we expected but was well worth the detour (and cost). Yes Rome was our last "blog destination" which we will be posting soon. Sitting in a hotel in a "non blog destination" before going home next week - damn.
1st November 2016
Matera

Happy Anniversary!
Thanks for the intro to gorgeous Matera, discovered only by travelogue-watching Aussies and half of Italy. Looks quite charming, and with the Italian hordes, it probably helped break you in for Rome. Love this suspension bridge, and how fine to have that walk across the canyon to get away from the crowds. Love that description of their work ethic here--clearly, I must be part Italian!
1st November 2016
Matera

Happy Anniversary!
Thanks Tara, I must admit the Matera Work ethics sounded pretty good and we kept looking at each other and saying "sign me up please". As we stated it wasn't what we expected but it was pretty bloody good, and if you find yourself over here we would certainly recommend the place.
13th November 2016

The joys of Italy
Sorry your boots didn't make it as you are almost home. Once a town hits the TV it can change over night. You may be right about that program being old. Happy, happy anniversary! I'm glad your first impressions change and you ended up finding it a breath of fresh air.
13th November 2016

The joys of Italy
Weird sensation when you hit a town expecting/craving one thing and get something completely different. Can really recommend Matera as it is sensational (and is the Cultural City of Europe 2019), but is a bit of a tourist trap.

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