Where Is This Whitewashed Town Built Into a Cliffside?
Nestled in the rugged landscape of southern Italy, Matera is a captivating town built into a cliffside that has been drawing visitors for centuries. With its whitewashed buildings, labyrinthine streets, and rich history, Matera offers a unique experience that is unlike any other.
Located in the region of Basilicata, Matera is often referred to as “la Città Sotterranea” or “the Underground City” due to its ancient cave dwellings, known as “sassi.” These caves, carved out of the soft limestone cliffs, have been inhabited for over 9,000 years, making Matera one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world.
The town’s unique architecture and stunning views have attracted filmmakers from around the globe. In fact, Matera has served as the backdrop for several movies, including Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and the recent James Bond film “No Time to Die.” The town’s picturesque setting and timeless charm make it a favorite among filmmakers and tourists alike.
As you wander through the narrow streets of Matera, you’ll be greeted by a sea of whitewashed buildings that seem to blend seamlessly with the natural landscape. The buildings, with their distinctive facades and arched entrances, create a striking contrast against the rugged cliffs. The town’s whitewashed walls have not only become an iconic symbol of Matera but also serve a practical purpose, reflecting the scorching sun during the summer months and helping to keep the interiors cool.
Matera’s intriguing history can be explored through its many historic sites and museums. The Sassi di Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must-visit. It is a vast complex of cave dwellings, churches, and monasteries that offer a glimpse into the town’s ancient past. The area has been meticulously restored, allowing visitors to see how the cave dwellings were once used as homes, churches, and even workshops.
If you’re curious about visiting Matera, here are some frequently asked questions about this remarkable town:
1. How do I get to Matera?
Matera can be reached by train or bus from major Italian cities such as Rome, Naples, and Bari. The nearest airport is Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport, which is approximately an hour’s drive away.
2. When is the best time to visit Matera?
The best time to visit Matera is during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and the town is less crowded. Summers can be scorching, and winters are often cold and rainy.
3. Are there accommodations available in Matera?
Yes, Matera offers a range of accommodations, including boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and holiday rentals. Staying in one of the cave hotels, which have been converted from ancient cave dwellings, is a unique experience.
4. Can I explore the Sassi di Matera on my own?
Yes, you can explore the Sassi di Matera on your own, but it’s highly recommended to take a guided tour to fully appreciate the history and significance of the area.
5. Are there any local specialties to try in Matera?
Matera is known for its delicious cuisine, with dishes such as orecchiette pasta, lamb, and local cheeses being popular choices. Don’t forget to try the famous Matera bread, which is made with durum wheat semolina.
6. Are there any festivals or events in Matera?
Matera hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Matera Jazz Festival and the Festa della Bruna, which celebrates the city’s patron saint. Check the local calendar for upcoming events during your visit.
7. Can I visit the ancient cave churches in Matera?
Yes, many of the cave churches in Matera are open to the public. The Church of Santa Maria de Idris and the Church of San Pietro Caveoso are particularly notable for their stunning frescoes and unique architecture.
Matera’s whitewashed town built into a cliffside is a true hidden gem that offers a glimpse into the past while providing a stunning backdrop for exploration and relaxation. With its rich history, unique architecture, and captivating beauty, Matera is a destination that should not be missed.