In Matera - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 19, 2022

In Matera

The ancient section of Matera, the Sassi di Matera, began as a complex of caves and caverns carved into the canyon walls above the Gravina River. Some estimates date the origin of the first settlements back to the 10th millennium BC, the Paleolithic Age, making Matera perhaps among the longest continuously inhabited places on earth.

The layered dwellings of the Sassi draped along the cliffside are one of the most visually compelling landscapes I’ve ever seen. Especially on a such a blue sky day such as this one. I spent the morning wandering the Sassi, top to bottom, end to end. Everywhere I turned was another stunning image, be it vast or intimate. The Easter crowds had largely dissipated, so there were times when I found myself alone on the back steps or far edges of a place both ancient and inhabited. It was an extraordinary few hours.

I went crazy with the camera, of course. Here are some of the things I saw on my morning stroll. But you really should go experience it for yourself.

In Matera

On the streets of Matera
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On the streets of Matera
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Men of Matera discussing the important things in life
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Chiesa del Purgatorio
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Flanking the door to the Chiesa del Purgatorio
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The Dancing Piano, by Salvador Dali
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Women with small children on the steps of Chiesa di San Francesco d'Assisi
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The Sassi

The Sassi di Matera - the big picture
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Inside the Sassi
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Inside the Sassi
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Inside the Sassi
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Inside the Sassi
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Inside the Sassi
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Inside the Sassi
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Renovation/restoration is ongoing inside the Sassi
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From the Sassi

The ancient city was built into and on the cliffs above the Gravina River
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You can take a suspension bridge (lower right) across the river to the Parco Regionale della Murgia Materana and it's many hiking trails
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Rachael AndersonWe did a small hike around there but I would love to go back and do more. Im glad the weather improved for you!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonI was tempted to stay another day to do some hiking, but thought it might not be wise until my ankle is 100%. An excuse to come back!
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3 months ago
The suspension bridge
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Ancient cave dwelling along the cliffs above the Gravina River
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Ancient cave dwelling along the cliffs above the Gravina River
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For lunch it was time for some cuisine indulgence, a six-course fixed-price meal at Dimora Ulmo Ristorante - mentioned by Michelin and given outstanding reviews by Lyle and Kristen McLeod. It is a fairly elegant space set in an palazzo formerly owned by one of the richest families in Matera. It is the type of restaurant with loads of staff who attend your every need, from refilling your water glass to wiping the crumbs from the table after every course. Today, I was the only diner in the restaurant – for the entire lunch service - I couldn’t believe it! By the fourth course, all of the wait staff had been sent home, leaving only the head waiter to explain the wonderful food he set before me. And it was a wonderful meal indeed – surprising taste combinations that lingered in your mouth; satisfying, yet not filling. A real delight.

Entrance to Dimora Ulmo Ristorante, located in a former palazzo
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One of my two favorite courses - squid with pickled cauliflower
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Another favorite - dessert of American potatoes “millefeuille”, with layers of thin sweet potatoes and dollops of cream. I found the colors and layerings evocative of the Sassi
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During lunch, I debated whether to spend the rest of the afternoon at the MUSMA, the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture, or a special Dali exhibit at the Complesso Rupestre Madonna delle Virtù e San Nicola dei Grec. I chose the latter, and set off to find the Complesso Rupestre Madonna delle Virtù e San Nicola dei Greci. Except GoogleMaps kept leading me to a dead end, or a way made impassable by construction. Up and down stairs and through small alleyways, I tried to follow the arrow. And suddenly, my foot slipped on the smooth stone and I fell.

The good news is that I landed on my rear end, with minor scrapes to my ankle (yes that ankle) and right arm. But I hit the side of my head against the stone wall. I was very worried about a concussion, so after a nearby gentleman kindly helped me up I walked slowly back to the B&B, cleaned up my wounds, darkened the room, kept on my sunglasses, and lay down for a few hours.

Up the stairs....
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Down the stairs....
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If only I had known that this is what I was looking for -- hard to miss!
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It’s now been more than eight hours since my fall. Though I still have a slight headache, I am happy to report that I have absolutely no signs of a concussion. Everything else seems to be in good working order, so I’m game to ride another day.

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Lucy MartinOh, no! Glad it seems to be minor scrapes and bruises. Take care of yourself.
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3 months ago
Angela NaefGood to hear your injuries are manageable and you are able to continue. I am really enjoying your journey and photos!
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3 months ago
Kathleen JonesYikes! Who needs a fall? We don’t bounce like we used to. I’m glad you’re all right and ready to keep on going.

The Sassi is an amazing place. Your photos are gorgeous.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonThat’s so frightening, Susan. It’s a beautifully written piece though, and evidence that your head has come through just fine. Thanks for taking us back to this unbelievable place again, and good luck with your ankle!

Also, if you’re heading to Taranto next, good luck with your routing! We had some real difficulty, but maybe you might learn something useful from our issues. Here’s our route and experience, for better and worse: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/palermo2019/taranto-on-to-puglia.
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3 months ago
Suzanne GibsonGlad you're okay, Susan! Who needs a scare like that. And that meal sounded delightful, by the way.
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3 months ago
Rachael AndersonSorry about your head. I’m glad to hear you’re okay!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonScott - Thanks for your kind comments - you'll be glad to know that my head is still working this morning.
Matera is extraordinary and I thank you for first bringing it to my attention in your 2019 journal - before all the world discovered it thanks to James Bond.
And also thanks for the route advice - I remember reading about the puddle portage. Actually I'm headed east to Trani, after spending a few more days in Murgia. I'll catch the train to Naples from Foggia on Monday. It's been a wonderful tour and I can't believe it's winding down. Next up -Burgundy!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachael
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Kathleen JonesThanks Kathleen for the well wishes and nice comments
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Lucy MartinThanks Lucy!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Suzanne GibsonThanks Suzanne!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Angela NaefThanks Angela - glad you’re enjoying the journal
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3 months ago
Rich FrasierOuch! Falling sucks. I'm so sorry! It's good to hear that you are OK and that you didn't let it dampen your day. Which was amazing - that's a ton of experiences to cram into a single day.
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3 months ago