Italy’s shame to Italy’s pride


Matera: City of Culture 2019. This is the view from outside our cave. Yes, we were indeed staying in a cave that have been converted into an air-conditioned hotel. Matera, now a popular destination with tourists was not always thus. In the50s it was described as the City of Shame by the Italians themselves. Grinding poverty and extremely poor if not non existent sanitation meant it had a high mortality rate for a so called civilised country. It had until Mussolini came along, no sewers, and the drains ran down the centre of the Main Street at the foot of the mountain. People lived in the caves which housed many children as well as their animals. It’s no surprise then that many were happy to leave and go to new housing provided by the Government when they decided to take action.

It was somewhere that  only a few die yards would stay in, the rest opting for mod cons.

Now it has been developed as a place to visit, where they tell their history and where you can stay in an air conditioned cave complete with all amenities but no animals.

It was our last destination on our recent walking holiday. They have kept it as ‘original’ as they can with the myriad of small lanes and cobbled alleyways. Thankfully they have chosen not to keep the smell from those days. Many of the old houses are now turned into restaurants and bars. Hotels are moulded into the hillside. On the top of the hill are the modern squares and promenades of the modern Matera.

Well worth a visit, but choose a quiet time of year to get the full atmosphere, apparently it gets very busy and extremely hot in the Summer. I don’t like to think about how the Main Street was in the days before modern sanitation.

We had a great time there. If you do go, make sure you go to the Museum to get the full picture of this place’s past.

It’s an odd thing that what was essentially a slum area has been restored to ‘something else’ and is now the City of Culture.





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