To Matera - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 18, 2022

To Matera

I’ve been surprised at how cold it’s been throughout my time in Puglia – everyone is sporting their puffy jackets. The cold doesn’t bother me, but the combination of cold, wind and rain can be a real deterrent – the presence of all three kept in Alberobello last night in hopes that one of the three (rain) would be gone by today. Thankfully, everything turned out pretty much as I’d hoped, a blustery, somewhat warming day with blue skies and sunshine by the time I reached Matera. A great day after all.

The winds today were predicted be NNW at ~20 mph, gusting to 30 mph. I plotted my route to Matera accordingly - first heading west through Noci and Gioia del Colle, and then southwest to Matera. It included more state provincial roads that I like, but was a fairly direct 43 miles that was given the seal of approval by the local cyclist I met yesterday morning.   

It was cool and drizzling when I left Alberobello at about 9:15, with temperatures predicted to stay at 50°C for the next few hours. The first seven miles to Noci were fairly uninteresting , except the pack of road cyclists that whizzed by with their shouts of greeting encouragement. In Noci, crowds of men gathered at the main intersection, shoulders hunched against the cold wind. They appeared to be waiting for a parade of sorts, but musicians were only just beginning to assemble and I didn’t linger.

Morning excitement on the road to Noci
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And just like that, they're gone
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A cold morning for a marching band
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In Noci - Vivien George was blown over seconds after this photo was taken
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The route dropped down from Noci and I was soon on the smaller, stonewall lined roads along the Murgia plateau. It was a more open landscape, an agriculture region of fields and dairy farms. I passed several people, single or in small groups, foraging the roadbeds for edible greens. I joined a woman and her small daughter in delighting at the shy, yet curious behavior of a young foal as he tentatively discovered life on his own. The wind was tempered by the numerous trees and winding roads – it was the most enjoyable part of the day.

Back on the smaller roads
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A lonely cow in the field
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On the Murgia plateau
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A trulli barn, perhaps
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Hello little one!
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Curious but shy, keeping his mother between himself and the intrusive onlookers
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A young mother and her daughter were also enjoying the equine mother and child
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Two cows in the woods
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I reached Gioia del Colle feeling strong but a bit hungry. Realizing I'd not eaten much yesterday, and was carrying only the almonds I picked up in Noci, I decided on a restaurant meal. There was a small place along the pedestrian area that offered pasta and an indoor spot for Vivien George - a first for her! 

The route from Gioia del Colle to Matera followed low-traffic provincial highways through an open, windswept landscape. The crosswinds were strong, with gusts that sometimes challenged my bike-handling skills. But the day was clearing, with blue skies to the north, and as I neared Matera it was warm enough to remove a layer.  

The church in Noci
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Pedestrian section in Noci
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Vivien George got a place in the restaurant by the wine cooler
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A good day for windmills
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Along the road to Matera
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Sheep on a windy day
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At the Puglia/Basilicata border, though not sure exactly what this is
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In Basilicata, nearing Matera
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About 10 miles southwest of Gioia I picked up Eurovelo 5, which I followed until it skirted Matera. The route crossed into the Basilicata region, dropping about 300 ft before the final steep climb into Matera. I admit to walking through the steepest, +14% section, hot, tired and a bit skittish of wind gusts blowing me into traffic. Partway up, I shed more clothes, remounted and rolled toward the old town where I found my B&B, located right on the main square of Matera. I’ll be here for the next two nights.

Donatella, my B&B host, gave me lots of great recommendations and made a dinner reservation at a traditional Italian restaurant located in one of renovated caverns in the Sassi, Matera’s ancient district of layered dwellings. The traditional meal was excellent - Crapiata, a peasant bean soup, was the perfect starter to cap off a cold and windy day. The orecchiette alla materana was a delicious baked pasta dish with a home-cooked feel. I should have stopped there, but could not resist the temptation of pistachio-crusted lamb. It was too much - too much pistachio, too much food – I left most of it on the plate.

I will explore more of Matera tomorrow; for now I leave you with just a few photos of this remarkable city.

The Matera cathedral overlooks the Sassi
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Scott AndersonSo amazing. There really is no place like this. So glad you made it up here!
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3 months ago
The Sassi
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The Sassi at night
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Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 339 miles (546 km)

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Rachael AndersonChallenging day but I’m so glad you made it to Matera!
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3 months ago