Friday, February 27, 2015

Park Murgia

Most of the churches in Park Murgia are closed. There is not enough resources to keep all of them opened. But from the crack I was able to get a shot of the fresco inside.
 A view of Matera from Park Murgia.

Park  Murgia is an empty quarter where only shepherds graze their cows and sheep. We could hear the cow bells and knew the cows were close by. Indeed they were, heritage black cows which give milk for making the wonderful cheese typical of Matera.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A frescoed rock church

Cappadocia, Turkey is not the only place in the world that lay claim to having frescoed rock churches. Matera, Italy has their own but not to the same extent as those found in Cappadocia. Our trip this time was to uncover some of these, we missed them on our first trip in 2007.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lunch time in Matera

 Our cook and owner of the restaurant, he wasn't speaking to us here but to the table next to us. From there conversation, they were big wigs from the movie studio in town for the shooting of the remake of Ben Hur.

 This is the traditional bread made in Matera and it is the most delicious bread.
 Lasagna, even his presentation is different and so exquisite.
And of course, orecchiete with rapini, so traditional of Southern Italy. It was a great lunch.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Casa grotta

 Inside a cave dwelling in Matera, this is clean and fresh but in reality it is not. It is usually smelly and dirty because they bring the animals inside and kids are sick with malaria and/or dysentery. The stuffing for the mattress is straw. Everyone lives in here, adults, children and babies.

 The kitchen with niches for things, there are air vents and chimneys.
 There is a water source near the kitchen where rain water is captured and stored.
 They bring their animals in at night, it could include some pigs too.

Today these same hovels are being renovated for private homes with sewer systems and other modern amenities and some are now hotels and restaurants. At one time these hovels became so unhealthy that the Italian government moved all thee 15,000 residents out to be resettled in the new upper village. Today some 60% of the sassi have been renovated. Matera has UNESCO world heritage site designation and is European culture capital of 2019!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Morning in Matera

 The hotel we stayed in, Agli Archi at the base of Sasso Caveoso, it is a rock carved hotel but thoroughly modernized.
 The extras on 'Ben Hur' are all in costumes already and waiting for shooting to start for the day. I found some horses nearby that they were using for filming. This horse nuzzled up to me, he was the gentlest animal, his hair was so soft and he was so gentle.
We met our guide, Luigi, and off we went, exploring the sassi and the ruprestrian churches.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

BBC Italy unpacked

This iss one hour long but well worth the effort to watch. This show highlighted the beauty of Matera and is making me want to make a third trip there. You wouldn't be disappointed. Besides this and many other shows in the series can be viewed on Youtube. Enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Matera, torn faces, a case for Interpol

 Frescoes from the church 'our lady of the three doors.'

Recovered frescoes, restored and displayed at the Museo Palazzo Lanfanchi, in Matera. This appears in my Kindle book, "Matera, Basilicata, Italy". Download and read all about it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Matera, the wild

 Signage is not the strong point in Matera, there are few signs and when we first arrived, I didn't realize that our hotel was actually in Sasso Caveoso. We arrived at Sasso Barisano and had to ask for directions. This forced us on a roundabout way through the town and into the road built by Mussolini to join the two sassi. We saw the wild and craggy gulley of Park Murgia across the way. There was a stream that passed at the bottom. This was some strange scenery and one we were completely unfamiliar to, but beautiful and enigmatic.

 Across the gulley, at Park Murgia, there are traces of civilization, there are still churches with frescoes, albeit not opened to the public. There's just not enough resources to restore everything and keep them opened. Theft of frescoes have happened when visitors chipped away at huge blocks of frescoes. Read my Kindle book, now available on Amazon.

This is just one church that is perched on a craggy and rocky outcrop. They are all over the place and it still has this eerie and other worldly feel to it and that's what makes Matera so special.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cripta del Peccato Originale, la Cappella Sistina degli insediamenti rupestri

Cripta del Peccato Originale, la Cappella Sistina degli insediamenti rupestri This is the official website for the crypt of the original sin. It is best visited with a guide. Check out

Matera, the crypt of original sin

A very beautiful and enigmatic place. It's like nothing I've ever seen and I have viewed a lot of frescoes but nothing is like these. It's tucked away in some place that it wasn't discovered until 1962 by some very determined Materans.

Anne, my friend in Rome

We met on a train from Rome Termini, she was going to Perugia and we were going to Assisi. We didn't talk much on the way to our respective destination but we were on the same train returning to Rome. The train broke down and we had two hours added to our journey. Anne is Canadian and was married to an Italian for 42 years, he has since passed away. He was a camera man with RAI. He worked late, after he finishes, they would go a restaurant to eat midnight pasta. It was from Anne that I learned there is dish called midnight pasta. All it is some pasta tossed in a pot, heat up some oil, saute garlic and pepper flakes, serve with pasta and parsley and cheese. Then they'll walk home. Rome would be deserted. They had Rome all to themselves. How very romantic. She has two grown children, one in Japan and the other in Toronto. She must be at least 85 and all alone in Rome. Wouldn't I like to be all alone in Rome but then I'll not be alone. I'll have the ghosts of Remus and Romulus, the ghosts of the twelve Caesars, the ghosts of St Peter and St Paul, all the martyrs, all the popes, the Borghese's and whoever else. I'll not be alone. We will all be together!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Matera, my new book on Kindle

This is now available for download on Amazon Kindle. With images. Check it out.


Mussolini built this road to connect the two sassi areas, Barisano and Caveoso but he sacrificed two rupestrian churches in the process. He cut the apses off them. It is a beautiful road with the sassi on one side and the craggy gravina on the other side and a little stream at the bottom.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Matera becomes Jerusalem in remake of Ben Bur

We arrived in town and there they were, the extras on the set of the remake of Ben Hur. Once everyone wanted to leave Matera. Today everyone wants to come back and is coming back.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Sunday in Rome

This is San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome and where I was last Sunday. I'm about to go to church in a few hours but last Sunday I was in three churches in Rome. We left Naples by train at 9am and was in Rome at 10.30 and since our room wasn't ready we took the metro to San Giovanni in Laterano and also to Scala Sancta where pilgrims get up some stairs on their knees. We then had lunch at a café and walked to San Clemente. Since we were right next to the Colosseum, we walked over to it to visit. It was very crowded. Then we walked up Esquilino hill to Santa Maria Maggiore at which time we were exhausted. But we refused to quit and sat down to have dinner before walking back to our hostel. I can do this again in a heart beat. Each time I'm in a church I pray that I can do this for as long as I want to!

Matera, its good to be back

I was here in 2007 but I missed all the rupestrian churches, the painted churches, the churches with frescoes. So this trip was to make up for what I missed. This time I had a guide. Sasso (sassi) means hollow because the whole gorge has been hollowed out to make places for dwellings. It was later that facades were made to frame the doorway and Matera began to acquire this look. From these two pictures, it doesn't look like anything has changed. But it has. Today both sassi, Barisano and Caveoso has been refurbished and occupied or at least 60% at least. It still look ancient.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Oh, to eat Italian

 Italians must think us crazy, to go gogo gaga over simple bread, olive oil, pomodoro and olio olivo, bruschetta. Everything tasted so good but it wasn't always the case, we've had terrible food on our trip and for that we cursed.

 We've had some great olive oil, crisp and green in taste. Imagine that's the norm in Italian life.
 Of course, when in the South, we've got to eat orecchiette with broccoli.
One of the restaurant's patrons said to take a picture of the waiter which I did. This was a jolly waiter. This was the same restaurant that Mel Gibson spent a lot of time in when he was filming 'the passion of the Christ'. We ate here too on our visit in 2007. At this time, it was crowded with the cast of the 'Ben Hur' remake. It opens at 8pm and there was already a line waiting outside.