Matera and the Sassi di Matera

Donning our sun hats, we started walking to Modugno train station. It was still early, and Modugno was quiet, there was only a couple of people walking around, going about their daily business. The train station was empty. We purchased our tickets for Matera. I am still in awe about how cheap travelling by train was in Italy. Only 5 euros for a journey that lasted around an hour. In the UK, I pay much more than that for a ticket to Cardiff which is about a 30 minute train ride. Whilst waiting for the train in the shade of a few trees (the temperature was already unbearable), I was watching a bird feeding its young in the middle of the train tracks. The young bird was able to hop up and down the little fence it was perched on, but was not able to fly yet. Every now and again its parent flew over to it, the little young bird mouth gaping wide open to accept a tasty morsel of food. We carried on watching this familiar exchange until the train arrived. It stated Gravina because we had to change, but we weren’t sure where we had to change. The guy on the train said we needed to change at Altamura. Altamura is another beautiful place to visit by the way. We visited Altamura last year.


Il viaggio

The journey on il treno itself was pleasant. It took us through the countryside so I got to see a bit of la campagna. I had always envisioned the South of Italy as this dry, arid region, brown everywhere, but there was actually a lot of greenery. First off we passed a lot of olive groves, then this turned into vast open areas filled with fattorie or farms. The train itself was quite pleasant, it was cool. and there was plenty of seats available. The change at Altamura was simple, the train was waiting already on the next platform, so it was just a case of crossing over the platform and getting straight onto it. There are several stations in Matera, and we got off at Matera Sud which was the closest station to the Sassi di Matera. Our guide for the day (a friend of Alberto’s) had instructed us to keep following the road down. We passed through areas which was clearly residential until we reached the bottom of the hill, and we arrived at the most stunning view ever! Looking over across the Sassi di Matera. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought my camera to capture the true magnitude and beauty of this view, so a couple of snaps on my phone had to suffice.

The Sassi di Matera

First of, I feel like I should provide a little background information about Matera. Matera is located in the region of Basilicata, so was actually outside of Puglia. The city of Matera is the capital of the province of Matera, and the original settlement lied between two canyons, which had been carved out by the Gravina river (now only a stream). The earlier settlement included a complex of cave dwellings that were carved directly into the canyon, leading to Matera’s nickname of la città sotterranea or the underground city.

Matera is thought to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, and Matera was believed to be first settled in the Palaeolithic region. However, the town of Matera was first founded by Lucius Caecilius Metellus in 251 BC and was named Matheola. It has been conquered by many different groups such as the Greeks, the Lombards, and the Byzantines amongst others.

Matera however, these days is famed for the Sassi di Matera, which originated as a prehistoric Troglodyte settlement. The Sassi were considered an area of extreme poverty and were known to be extremely dangerous so the government cleared them out in 1952 and they lay abandoned until the 1980’s. Now the town has a blooming tourist industry, with the Sassi being one of the biggest tourist attractions. The site is now a UNESCO site and as well as this, the city of Matera was named the European Capital of Culture.

Why am I moving to Italy?

Hi guys. As this is my first blog post I thought I would give you a little insight into why I am moving to Italy and the whole thought process behind it.

So why?

Well basically… I met a guy. He is Italian. And it goes on from there.

So me and Alberto have been in a long-distance relationship for nearly three years. Crazy huh? This involves a lot of creativity in keeping our relationship intimate. And no, I don’t just mean in ‘that way’. Dirty buggers! I mean… finding ways to do things that all couples do, like watching a TV show together. We do this on Netflix usually by the way. At the moment we’re watching a great show called Shtisel, which we are both loving. And it’s in Hebrew, or Yiddish. I don’t recall which one, or even if there is a difference? One thing I do know though is that it is a language neither of us speak! We like to synch this up together during a voice call on discord, which usually involves Alberto counting down from 3, in an array of languages. Ok ok, just two languages. English or Italian. Luckily my Italian is now good enough to be able to count down from three.

Anyway, I am not going to bore you with details of our long-distance relationship. It has been tough at times, but we survived it. And I got to visit a beautiful country a whole heap load of times. Bonus.

 “Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”

Anna Akhmatova

I don’t even remember when we had decided we were going to live together. Him moving to the UK though was not really an option. So Alberto graduated Med School in February 2019 (I hope that is right? I am pretty sure he would kill me if it wasn’t). Since graduating med school, he had to do some crazy exam along with all of the other recent med graduates in Italy. This huge exam was to gain a place in a residency. Basically, whoever scores the highest gets to pick their residency first. Alberto of course is super intelligent, and did fairly well in this. So he managed to get the residency in his hometown. He is now doing this for the next 5 years. So therefore, the only option was for me to move to Italy.

Who wouldn’t want to move to Italy though? Great food, fantastic weather, beautiful architecture… its a dream right?

So we set a date. This date has changed several times in the process. First we had decided when I graduated from my Msc, then we changed it til later. And then even later. It currently stands at the beginning of July. On a Monday, as it is my father’s day off work and he can drive me to the airport. I think the provisional date I set was July 6th.

2020-07-06T16:58:00

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

Moving to Italy!

Aaaaaaaah. At the time of writing this, there is 61 days until that date! Crazy. There is so much to do in the mean time.

Unfortunately, due to this global epidemic that is going on at the moment, that provisional date is highly likely to change. We are just waiting at the moment for any news of the lock-down in both Italy and the UK ending. So fingers crossed. I will keep you guys updated.

By the way. If you want some insight into the place I am going to be living. It is a city called Bari, which is the capital city of Puglia, a region in the South of Italy, right on the heel of the country pretty much. You can see it where the red balloon is on the map below.

Bari is a beautiful city on the coast. There are loads of beaches around, and a big port in Bari. And the old town is absolutely stunning. It is also one of the largest cities in the area, so has plenty to do. A lot of shops, bars and restaurants. Hopefully it will also be convenient for me to find a job there as well.

I have inserted a random picture I found online of Bari just for reference. In no way is this my own photograph, frankly I am definitely not that talented. So thanks google image search and lonelyplanet.com for the snap. Very grateful!

Image by Michal Ludwiczak / Getty Images