Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Matera, Italy

Here is Mel Gibson on the set while filming 'The Passion of the Christ'. When I saw the movie, I was so moved by not only the movie but also by the place where it was shot. I couldn't get it off my mind. It was hauntingly beautiful, I knew it wasn't in Israel, but where. I checked the website of the movie and found out it was in a little unknown town in Southern Italy. I had to go visit. By being my own travel agent I was able to do it. I read all I could find, there was no easy way to get into the interior of Southern Italy, the easiest was to head south to Bari and from Bari take the train to Matera. This was what we did. What we are seeing are the 'sassi' cave dwellings that has been there for thousands of years, the local peasants lived in these caves with their animals. It was once declared to be so unsanitary but Unesco thought otherwise, it was declared a world heritage site by Unesco. There was a revival of interest in these 'sassi' caves, the city folks began to buy up these properties for development. A lot of them have been converted to lofts, some into hotels. We stayed in such a hotel, the 'Locanda di San Martino'. The owners, a husband who is Italian and a wife who is American, did a great job. It is a beautiful hotel. It is a very unusual place, one can spend endless hours just roaming up and down, in and out of these caves, some are lived in, others are abandoned. Besides Mel Gibson's movie, there were a host of other movies that were shot on location there. So it's not so unknown to the movie industry. It was unknown to me till this movie. I'm always amazed that when I read something or see something that moves me, I want to experience it. Last week, at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I saw this book about St Catherine monastery in the Sinai desert. Wow, it had the same haunting beauty like Matera. Guess what, I'm making plans to go there, it's in Egypt.

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