Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Today we visited Matera. Until this morning I had never heard of it, but it was a highlight of the trip so far (closely followed by Butrint). The rain and cool air did not deter the visit although it left us a little cold.
The drive was very nice, with the agricultural nature of the area being a predominant feature. Seeing the perfectly constructed stone fences, and the local shelters (probably old granaries) dotting the landscape was very interesting. As well, there were many small settlements and mini-castles, or large settlements along the way.
As we neared Matera though, the ancient walls began to peek out of the ground and the caves became apparent. The scale was stunning however when seen from the town itself.
One of the highlights here are the Painted churches (no photos allowed). The rock outcropping over Jinhee’s shoulder to the right is one of those cave churches and there are very old paintings inside, mostly religious material. These carved caves are very spectacular both in their number and in some cases in their complexity. This place could take days to explore. We gave it a half day due to weather and the drive to and from the boat.
Of course there were Duomo’s to visit as well.
We also enjoyed a slow lunch while we warmed up. The rain and chill were more insistent today. On the way out of town we visited more caves in the state park. There are hundreds of these caves (Ruperian), some with remarkable complexity and clearly created before recorded history in most cases.
The view from the park with Matera in the background (across the gorge). The caves are cut into the walls of the gorge by the dozens. Amazing!!