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Matera - The European Capital of Culture

Matera, also known as the city of the "Sassi", is one of the few cities in the world that has been continuously inhabited since prehistoric times. Since 1993, the extensive Sassi district, the town's ancient cave-dwellings, and the Park of the Rock Churches have been on the World Heritage List, where they have been described as "one of the most outstanding organized urban settlements ever created in the world, a real masterpiece of human creative genius and capacity to adapt".

Matera, recently nominated 2019 European Capital of Culture in Italy, will boast numerous attractions and experiences along with the eventful program that enlivens the city throughout the year: from archeology museums, art and history to cultural and environmental routes, from food and wine tours to crafts and design. Today, the city of the Sassi is the ideal location to rediscover the most authentic aspects of knowledge and fully enjoy a unique human and cultural panorama, where everyone can find something of themselves and feel immediately warmly welcomed. One of the most amazing experiences is wandering around the Sassi district, where cave-houses are built on top of one other, and narrow streets lead to alleys, courtyards, stairways and squares.

Or you can discover the astonishing Park of the Rock Churches, across the Gravina river, boasting over 150 places of worship carved out of the rock. You will feel as if you were part of a "stone fresco" guarded by deep silence. Because Matera is one of those cities that "the spirit never leaves" (Tahar Ben Jelloun).

The Sassi Districts

The Sassi of Matera are made up of two natural amphitheaters entirely carved out of the rock: the "Sasso Barisano", to the north-west, which is largely formed by palaces and traditional houses, and also Sasso Caveoso, to the south, mostly made up of cave-houses.

The Cività district, which is the oldest inhabited group of buildings around the Cathedral, overlooks the lively panorama of the Sassi. As the day goes by, the colour and atmosphere of the town center change significantly: during the day, the dazzle of the sun shines on the white limestone rock; at night, when the moonlight glows on the Sassi, you will experience the unique feeling of being in a huge nativity scene, with hundreds of small lights scattered all over.

You can visit also:

The underground cistern of Palombaro Lungo

Casa-Grotta and Museum of the Peasant Culture

The rock churches in the Sassi district:

Santa Lucia alle Malve

San Giovanni in Monterrone and Santa Maria De Idris

Madonna Delle Virtù and San Nicola dei Greci

Santa Barbara

San Pietro Barisano

San Pietro e Paolo al Caveoso

The other churches:

Matera Cathedral

Chiesa di San Francesco d'Assisi

Chiesa del Purgatorio

Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista

Chiesa di San Domenico

Chiesa di Mater Domini

Chiesa di Santa Chiara

Chiesa di Santa Lucia

Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola

Chiesa & Convento di Sant'Agostino

Matera and it's museums:

The Archaeological Museum "Domenico Ridola"

The National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata

The Museum of Contemporary Sculpture "MUSMA"

Casa Ortega

Casa Noha

Casa Cava

Matera Olive Oil Museum - MOOM

The other places

The squares

The main squares of Matera include:

Piazza Vittorio Veneto, offering views on town center's skyline, with breathtaking view on the Sasso Barisano and an access to the subterranean networks as well as the rock-cut churches;

Piazza del Sedile, with the Palace of the same name hosting the music conservatory "Egidio Romualdo Duni";

Pazzetta Pascoli, dedicated to the famous Italian poet Pascoli, who was professor of Latin and Greek at the Liceo Ginnasio of Matera. From here, you can enjoy one of the most suggestive views of the Cività district with the Cathedral and the Sasso Caveoso cave district. The square also features the "Drop", made by Japanese sculptor Kengiro Japanese Azuma. A three-meter tall, bronze statue, which symbolizes the element that most characterizes Matera's thousands of years of history: water.

Castello Tramontano

The Castle is named after Count Giancarlo Tramontano who rose to power against the will of Matera's citizens who murdered him during a conspiracy. Situated on a hill near the town center, the construction was left unfinished because of the count's murder. Built in the Aragonese style, the castle features a stunning central tower and two lateral towers crowned with embrasures. This enchanting "unfinished" castle and its surrounding park host important cultural and musical events.

The historical natural park of the rock churches of Matera

Known in Italian as the "Parco Della Murgia Materana", was nominated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and is spread across some of the most spectacular rock scenery in the world. The protected area extends between Matera and the town of Montescaglioso and consist of over 150 rocks churches narrating centuries of spirituality, with some of them dating back the Roman period. The churches are richly decorated with frescoes and wonderful architectural elements such as apses, quatrefoil, capitals and arches, which are made even more beautiful by the small domes. Visitors can enjoy the beauty and charm of this unique landscape with the help of the guides provided by the Park Authority. From the Visitor Center "Jazzo Gattini and Masseria Radogna", open all year round, you can start your journey to explore the gorge of Matera, across a scenic route facing the Sassi districts, The Neolithic village of Murgia Timone and the rock churches of Madonna delle Tre Porte, S.Falcione, Madonna delle Croci and S. Agnese.

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Cripta del Peccato Originale

Known as the "Sistine Chapel" of the rock-hewn churches, given the theological and artistic value of its mural paintings, the Cripta del Peccato Originale (Crypt of the Original Sin) is one of Matera's most interesting rock churches. This rocky hollow overlooking the Gravina of Picciano was a Benedictine monastery during the Lombard period. The cave is richly decorated with an extraordinary cycle of frescoes made by an artist known as the Painter of the flowers of Matera. On the left wall there are three apses representing the Triarchy of the Apostles, the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the Archangels. The bottom wall boasts a large pictorial cycle depicting episodes of the Creation and the Original Sin. A precious site brought to light and restored by Fondazione Zètema.

I suggest a hotel, totally luxury: Hotel del Campo **** in Matera

And restaurant where we eat: La Bruschetta, Osteria L'Arco.


James Bond in Matera: No Time to Die

The official trailer has at last been released for the new James Bond movie which was filmed in Matera, currently European Capital of Culture, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata.

Titled No Time to Die, the movie sees Bond come out of retirement after his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA seeks his help, leading 007 onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

The movie, which stars Daniel Craig in the lead role for the fifth and final time, was directed by Cary Fukunaga who took over the reigns from outgoing Bond director Danny Boyle.

The new Bond film, the 25th in the series, is currently in post-production phase and has a release date of 8 April 2020.

Filming began in Matera in April of this year, with scenes shot in the city's historic centre as well as its ancient sassi, the UNESCO-protected cave dwellings.

Over the years Bond movies have been filmed in numerous Italian locations including Rome, Siena and Venice as well as Lake Como and Sardinia.

Matera's distinctive landscape has featured in several international productions in the past, including Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which was partly-filmed there in 2003.

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