Dare Dream Discover

A Taste of Puglia – Matera

A Taste of Puglia – Matera

Matera is one of the most beautiful and interesting places I have visited. It is the 3rd oldest city in the world and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. However, Matera used to be known as ‘The Shame of Italy’.

Matera is a city of cave houses and conditions used to be very primitive. Even in the 1950s, there was no electricity or running water. There was no sewage systage, a huge ditch running through the middle of the street carried all the waste. Big, extended families lived together in their cave house, along with their animals. It was cold and damp and disease was rife including malaria, cholera and tuberculosis.

“The Shame of Italy”

Matera was called the ‘Shame of Italy’ because of the squalid conditions it’s residents endured. In the 1950s new apartment blocks were built for the 15,000 residents of the Sassi (Old Town). Most residents didn’t want to leave the Sassi and were forcibly removed. There were huge protests. The government however, owned all the properties and residents were made to leave.

Allocation for new apartments was done by drawing lots. Many residents were separated from neighbours they’d lived side by side with for generations. As in most, of Puglia several houses were built around a small courtyard. Although in this case case they were yewn from the rock. It is sandstone so was easy to carve but was also porous.

Settling in to their apartments took a little getting used to. Most moved their animals in with them. The men would take them to pasture during the day and bring them home in the evening. It was usual to see sheep on the balcony and a pig in the bath. Bidets were used for growing Rosemary, thyme and oregano.

Matera – the 1980s

In the 1980s the movement to restore the Sassis gained momentum and a clean up operation began. The government began offering 30 year leases for properties. In 1993 Matera was declared a UNESCO world Heritage Site. Soon the first renovated cave, houses became holiday lettings, restaurants and shops. It is an incredible turnaround.

In 2004 Mel Gibson filmed part of the The Passion of the Christ in Matera. In parts it looks a lot like the old Jerusalem. This attracted more tourists and made Mel Gibson something of a local hero here. Scenes from the recent remake of Ben Hur and the Wonder Woman film were also shot here.

Filming the New James Bond

As I write this they are filming scenes for new James Bond movie. I was lucky to see some balcony scenes being shot last night.

filming of the new james bond

I’m glad I came now. There is still a section of the Sassis yet to be renovated and to see the before and after is incredible. To think that for 30 years the rest of the Sassi looked like this.

Staying in a Cave House

I stayed in a cave house, Casa del Trombetiere – La Corte del Cavalalieri. My bathroom was incredible. Funny to think that previously it was the room the animals stayed in. It was a fantastic experience and one of the best and most interesting places I have stayed.

cave house bathroom in Matera

cave house bedroom in Matera

I went on a small group walking tour with Discovering Matera as a Group. The guide was excellent and extremely knowledgeable.

There are also some excellent restaurants too. As my host said ‘it’s all excellent food, it’s just the price that’s different’.

Best restaurants in Matera

My tip would be to stay overnight for 1 night or more. Have the experience of staying in a cave house. Also enjoy first thing in the morning and early evening when the crowds have gone and the light is so fantastic.

If you have limited time or just want to have 1 base, it is possible to come to Matera on a day trip from Bari

matera lights

I got up at 6am and was rewarded with this. What a way to start the day.

morning view over matera

I then inadvertently ended up on a film set. This is the James Bond car complete with scrapes and bullet holes.

James Bond Aston Martin in Matera

No Time to Die filming in Matera

Go and visit Matera now before the film is released and you can still appreciate the tranquility.

Book your stay in Matera


cute dog in Italy


This website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience... moregot it