You just never know! We were lucky enough to have made reservations at alla Dolce Vita B&B. Matera has dozens of choices for places to stay. But we, fortunately, ended up here where Vincenzo, a native son of many generations, and his French wife Carla have set up shop. They are a treasure.
Vincenzo tells us Matera's story
Vincenzo is passionate about his home. He took us out behind their property onto the graveyard that sits behind overlooking the gorge and gave us a
The depressions were the graves. Beneath the graves in cave is the church.
fantastic introduction to Matera. He began eons ago when the sea laid down the layers that were eventually eroded by Torrente Gravina di Matera, exposing the caves. He explained how the area has always been feudal, from the
The view down to the gorge from the graveyard
Romans to the Church to the mafia. The general populace received protection and jobs from the powers that be – for a price. He showed us a church tile on a building – evidence that the church was given the dwelling by its owner in return for a guaranteed place in heaven. The surviving family still occupied the building, but now paid rent. It was business!
Animal bones as structural members of the building
On the same structure he showed us how nothing goes to waste – animal bones used as part of the roof support structure. Why? Because bones neither rust nor rot. He said, “Your animal kept on giving, even after death!” (How likely would we have been to notice this, let alone get an explanation? Like I said, Vincenzo is a treasure.)
The front of alla Dolce Vita B&B
When the government began relocating the sassi dwellers to new apartments, the two sassi emptied and deteriorated. With UNESCO designation has come tourism and the opportunity to reclaim and appreciate the sassi. So now government is encouraging people to repopulate the sassi, offering incentives. It was a long and arduous process – 10 years – to get their B&B up and running. But what a warm, cozy, comfortable place. We had an apartment, complete with kitchen.
Vincenzo explained the intricate water collection system and the cooperative nature of Matera’s citizens. This is a city of stone. You see virtually no green spaces in the sassi. Water is a problem. So they collected it off the roofs and
The circle to the right is access to the cistern below. You can see channels leading to the circle to direct surface water into the cistern.
stone surfaces in cisterns below the surface. They are all interconnected. If yours fills it flows into your neighbor below and so forth. Ultimately there are several huge communal cisterns for the last overflow. Should it fill, it flowed out into the street to wash away sewage. The caves were used in summer to collect water from moist air condensing on the cave walls.
Communal space for several dwellings. They shared a wood oven in this space. Wood being scarce, they heated the oven and shared the oven for cooking.
We’ll take a look at a cave dwelling next.
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