Matera and ...
According to the historian Amerigo Restucci the Lucanian town exudes a sense of archaic timelessness, due mainly to a coexistence, developed over the centuries, between local inhabitants and nature elements. Ancient settlers dug into the limestone in search of water, creating an intricate system of cisterns, and adapting empty caverns for agrarian use, habitation and worship. This labyrinth-like town carved into the limestone is called “I Sassi” – the stones. From the XVIII century onwards, the functional system of the Sassi, previously continuously inhabited for centuries, underwent a steady decay, aggravated by sever poverty that finally resulted in a forced evacuation in the Fifties. It wasn’t until the Seventies that the process of restoration began in earnest. This effort to revive the rupestrian nucleus earned Unesco recognition and won the title (first place in the world) of “ cultural landscape”. In Matera, more than ever before, the historical and geomorphologic complexity, enriched and preserved by many museums, can be enjoyed with the help of an expert guide. The fascinating Museum of Contemporary Art, the Musma, hosts a wonderful collecting www.musma.it . For booking a guided tour of the Crypt of the Original Sin, The Sistine chapel of cave painting you can see on www.cryptoforiginalsin.it
Behind the Murgia Park, scrambling up a steep cliff, is Montescaglioso. The scenic village has wonderful views, spanning from the Bradano valley to Taranto’s Gulf, but it is also known for its well preserved historical center. Traces of its past are on display in the Archaeological Museum “ Domenico Ridola” in Matera. Historical artifacts can also been seen peeking out from under the noble Benedictine Abbey of Saint Michael the Archangel, impressive symbol of the village, and subject of a very interesting guided tour.
Miglionico, a few kilometers from The Saint Giuliano Lake and the connected area of wildlife protection entrusted by WWF, sits picturesquely on a hill surrounded by remains of ancient walls. The maze of alleyways characterized by a simple architecture hides the beautiful Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, a pearl of the early XVI century painting, Cima da Conegliano’s polyptych. Overlooking the village is the majestic castle of the “Malconsiglio” whose name recalls the famous plot conspired in 1485 against King Ferdinand I of Naples.
To have a sufficiently comprehensive idea of the lesser known resources of the region, we encourage you to visit three other villages. Irsina, developed on a very ancient settlement, with its urban structure once rich with noble palaces, is dominated by a dramatically cleft mountain. The Mantegna’s statue of Sain Eufemia, shown in the Cathedral, has recently brought this village into the international artistic spotlight. Grottole, whose urban shape is marked by the ruins of the Church of Saints Luca e Giuliano, which collapsed during the XVIII century and never rebuilt. A tour along the clay banks of the village will expose the Medieval petroglyph designs decorating structures still used as sheepfolds, stables, cellars. Finally, Grassano, one of the stops on the literary tour linked to Carlo Levi‘s forced exile, shows a notable primitive habitat made of cave-cellars carved out of the vertical walls of alluviums and today at last being restored for tourist enjoyment.