Guess who is back? Its me Waldo! After MUCH deliberation, I decided to start blogging again, for now. I have no idea when I’ll get bored again. After hearing one too many times from people that miss my posts (such as wife, kids, etc who probably want me busy doing something else for a change), I decided to give this thing another go. Much has happened to me during the last few years, but instead of boring you with all of that, I’m going to bore you to death with some Matera tips and the amateur photos you so badly missed and didnt even know it. Note: Not writing for a few years has probably left me with the writing skills of a 10 year old. The site tagline, “Dining Well, Spelling Pourly” therefore remains.
Matera, simply put, is one of the most fascinating places we’ve ever seen. A movie set city, a la Dubrovnik. As you walk the streets and its cave dwelling areas (Sassi), it almost feels like you need to watch out for James Bond speeding by a side alley. They really need to start ticketing the dude before he kills someone. One thing you dont have to watch out for is poop. The city is incredibly atmospheric, and surprisingly remarkably clean for one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Not surprising, Matera has been UNESCO’d since 1993. But being designated as the European capital of culture in 2019 really put it on the map, even though its been on the map for 9000 years. While its located in the region of Basilicata, for the purpose of this blog, I’m putting Matera in Puglia since thats where most visitors pair Matera with.
I therefore present Ziggy’s 10 bathroom friendly, obvious and not so obvious, but mostly obvious tips for Matera.
Stay a little longer. So many just do day trips from Puglia, or an overnighter, but I highly recommend staying for at least two nights. Three nights is ideal. Not only you’ll experience the city in all its glory in the morning and night multiple times, but you’ll also have time to hike the fantastic Murgia Materana park. A longer stay will enable a visit to the Crypt of the Original Sin (need to reserve), and/or a full day visit to the spectacular Castelmezzano.
Take a tour. Some places require tours more than others. The complex long history, and geopolitical situation, makes Matera a strong candidate as a city best served by a tour. Might as well make it with a fun local like Alessio Leardi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Reserve your secured parking spot. Probably not necessary for most, as your host will be able to assist you with the parking situation. But in our case this was an unexpected necessity, as PARCHEGGIO NICOLETTI MICHELE was booked solid after we reserved our two spots. You cant park in much of the Sassi areas, and Matera is getting more and more popular, especially after the latest Bond. Just watch the first 20 minutes, and skip the rest of the dullest Bond ever.
Stay at Dimora Santa Barbara. Nicely situated Apartments/Hotel near the Duomo area. Spectacular views from the shared terrace. Some rooms are nicer than others (I think we liked ours the best, at the end of the terrace, I believe its room 1). There are many other interesting places to choose from. Many bloggers will suggest sleeping in a cave hotel. We found most of them much more expensive, and while it may be a fun and fitting experience, it just wasnt for us.
Hike the Murgia. Goes hand with hand with the first bullet, but it seems most people overlook this. The hikes can be as strenuous as you want them to be, but at the very least simply cross the valley and the rope bridge, and hike up on the other side to see some very cool caves and Matera from a different perspective. This is where you’ll get a chance to take that classic shot.
Try the Pane. If you love bread, you are at the right place. Just don’t mention Altamura to anyone as the locals are very sensitive and protective of their bread too turns out. There are quite a few Matera specialties but if I have to pick a must try food here it’s the often oversized, misshaped bread you’ll see proudly displayed in front of restaurants and bakeries. The appropriately named Crapiata and other local specialties were good but to me not as special or unique as the bread. Very hard exterior will almost feel like they sold you yesterdays loaf, but once you start ripping you’ll understand.
Eat at Soul Kitchen. Maybe the 5th time in my life I hugged the chef. One of those meals, that will be featured here at some point in detail. Just get the Podolica Ribeye, and call me in the morning.
Dont ignore rain warnings. If the forecast suggests possible rain, but you want to make a quick harmless Focaccia run, dont leave without an umbrella. When it rains, it pours here, and before you know it, a flash flood will make you look for an arch wide enough to keep you dry. I’m one of those that dont like to walk with umbrellas, and got punished for it here.
Visit the Cathedral. It was easy for us as we stayed right near it, but it could be a schlep depending on where you come from. But its totally worth seeing the 13th century Duomo partly due to its position overlooking the spectacular Sasso Barisano.
Prepare to get physical, physical. When I asked my family during dinner if they have any tips for Matera (tbh, I didnt really have 10 tips on the top of my head ;)) they said two things. Watch the rope on the Murgia bridge (as you climb to it, your instincts will make you extend your head, and your forehead will get hit by an unexpected hard rope. Even some of us who expected this, got hit. Ok, it was me). The other thing they said was to prepare for a workout that wont be very kind to your knees and feet. The numerous layers of the cave dwellings may mean a record breaking number of blister breaks.