On Sunday mornings it wakes us up with a warm sun and the sound of bells. We have breakfast with a beautiful melody played on the piano by Mr. Felice, while his sweet wife Betty worries that everything is fine. It’s wonderful when people you’ve known for less than 24 hours give you so much attention with spontaneity and sincerity that you feel at home. In fact in Matera, all the people met were delightful, starting with a kind gentleman in piazzetta Pascoli who, seeing us enchanted by the landscape in front of us, decides to explain something about his land and from his words shines a deep love for the city of the Sassi.
He explains that Matera is a city with ancient origins from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic and has never remained uninhabited. He explains about gravina, the wonderful canyon at the foot of the city. He tells us the story of the long palombaro of which he was one of the scholars who first crossed the large tank in a canoe when it was found.
We are enchanted as he speaks, as he is enchanted by the panorama he has known for a lifetime but which always remains a “wonder”,as he himself defines his Matera.
We walk among the stones we are now very curious to know the city that last night bewitched us: first stop the Benedictine convent. A small place hidden among the stones and on the door an elderly and kind gentleman who invites for only two euros to visit a place carved into history. In addition to ancient frescoes and the indelible traces left by Roman and Greek civilizations, we can already have an idea of what life was inside the Sassi. We can feel the moisture sning into our bones as little weak light enters from small skylights. Inside there is also the typical matera oven, the common oven where each family went to bake bread.
A few steps on foot and in no time we are in St. Peter’s Square Caveoso, we take some photos while the large churchobserves the entire square and checks in canyons at its feet… the landscape is wonderful, from here we can see the famous Tibetan bridge that leads from one side of Matera to the other.
Behind it it is possible to see the cave house of Vico Solitario and take a step back in time, a surreal walk in history that however so ancient is not, indeed it is a story that stops up and down in the 50s. The cave house shows us the daily life in what someone called the shame of Italy. A large and tall bed because underneath was food for chickens. Drawers that in the evening became the children’s beds and a cradle for the privileged one of the house, the one who was born last, still too small to sleep in a drawer. A small kitchen and a small cistern. Again, a real stable because yes, with your animals you live in the house.
Then from 1951 onwards, silence. Men and women forced to leave their lives because it was worth too much to let themselves die in damp houses, because Matera was worth more and could not itself allow itself to be killed, abandoned and forgotten by a state, too long asleep. But in these damp walls, it remained an important sign, it remained a melancholy but so human thought, so true… the philosophy of misery. A life made of simple things, where everything becomes functional and every adversity becomes a means of survival. In addition to the cave house we can also admire the snow and the natural cave, a meeting place for the farmers of the time.
We continue following our map of Matera and go up to the basilica of Madonna dell’Idris. As you climb, Matera shows itself in all its sober and humble beauty. At the foot of the great cross is the church that merges with the rock. The overbearing beauty that proudly shows from afar suddenly becomes a silent presence. Its sacredness is given by its simplicity: you do not need frescoes and paintings to pray to the Lord, just this solid and resistant stone as must be the faith of will go to this place.
Short but rich lunch break and you start walking again after a nice coffee. We take a walk between Piazza del Sedile and Piazza Vittorio Veneto.We walk among laughing children and confetti rains and we find ourselves in the hypogea, once again the indelible sign of the omnipresence of civilization in the brulla Matera. From there we book for the visit to the palombaro that will leave shortly and welcomes a maximum of 30 people at a time.
The palombaro,still under restoration and study was “the well” of the farmers of Matera, the cistern that welcomed rainwater that would end up in the farmers’ houses. The tuff is covered with a particular plaster that makes it waterproof. This tank is about 15 meters high and has a capacity of about 5 million liters of water.
It’s about 5:30 pm and as on every respected winter day it is almost dark but we can not stop… now we have to get to the cathedral. We cross the stones again and between climbs, narrow streets and a bit of wind we enjoy a splendid Matera that begins to light up. As in a nativity scene, the houses light up and suddenly the white stones become almost golden under a clear cobalt sky.
It’s a lazy Sunday, our steps resonate in the streets and seem to be the only sound… then a bell. The time to raise our heads and watch them the bell tower together with the cathedral in Piazza Duomo who in their sober elegance wish the good evening to the panorama kneeling at their feet.
The strictness and simplicity of the exterior are in stark contrast to the opulence of the interior. Rich decorations and refined frescoes cover the walls of this great church, full of tourists more than faithful. Some of these frescoes date back as far as the 13th century.
Now it’s dark, the people who cross the narrow streets are tourists like us looking for a nice place to host them for dinner, where you can enjoy something small and warm up on this wet evening. We too organize ourselves to dine, but without stopping to look around, as if we were immersed in a wonderful little ancient world.