After an hour-long trip on broken streets and passing building sites, we finally arrive the first stop on our itinerary, Matera, and suddenly we are not allowed to go on. Only with a special permit, which of course, we did not have. Once we drove around in circles three times, we finally park the car in one of the old alleys to get an overview by foot. The next side street leads us into a whole new world. In front of us lies the ancient cave city. It looks like an intricate construction of stone houses, carved into the rock and melting with the environment. Matera belongs to the southern Italian region of Basilikata and is famous for its historic city, which is one of the oldest worldwide and belongs to UNESCO World Heritage. It is largely made of cave settlement, called Sassi, in which you can find countless monolithic churches with old mural art. We roam the deserted streets, fascinated, which only come to live with a few clotheslines and kitties. The smooth cobblestones and a loose sole of Yannic’s shoe lead to an unplanned adrenalin rush and a few bruises as he slitheres down the street and, well, let’s put it this way: he face plants it. Probably, this is part of an unforgettable journey, and it is also some sort of our tradition and the sign to finally walk to the hotel and relax the sore muscles in a hot bath.

Only because of the hotel with its outstanding design, Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita, we discovered this unique city. Somehow, we find our destinations with detours; we see a great accommodation and this way get to places we have never heard before. Just like we discovered the Azores Island Pico: we saw a photo of a small house made of black stone, built directly at the Atlantic cliffs and wanted to make it our home for a few days.
In the Grotte Della Civita you don’t just live in a hotel room, no. You live in one of the ancient caves which are the city’s signature. In the 1950s, the inhabitants of the Sassi were resettled because the caves without electricity and constant water were viewed as a stain on Italy, which should vanish from the face of earth. People lived there under horrible conditions, along with their cattle and up to a dozen of other people in one cave. For a long time, the ancient city was deserted and is now rebuilt bit by bit and revived. Thanks to projects as Sextantio, the historic caves can be preserved and be used again. At the same time, emphasis is put on an authentic restoration of the original structure. However, there is a sophisticated heating and ventilation system in the hotel caves. Due to all the candles and indirect light in the vaults, the massive wooden furniture, ancient linen and handmade ceramics, you feel carried back into another time. There is a modest elegance in every detail.

It is an incredible feeling to unlock the heavy, wooden door to our cave with the big, old key and to dive into this world. The huge room, carved into the rock, with its 7m high ceiling is so astounding and cozy, even the panoramic view of the national park Murgia fades in comparison. We make ourselves at home and save the view for the next morning. We enjoy it thoroughly on our way to the breakfast room, one of the old mural chapels. Now, there is finally the reason for our trip, the food! We love the puristic Italian cuisine with its focus on the essentials: good ingredients. This also reflects in the breakfast in the Grotte Della Civita. We find selected regional products like the Pane di Matera in its unusual form, which is baked from double ground semolina. The grain for the bread is grown in Matera itself and stored in a special way. Of course, regional specialties as Burrata and Focaccia, which are covered with potatoes or tomatoes, may not be missed at the breakfast buffet, just as little classic pastries such as Crostata and Cantuccini. We relish on the buffet with fresh pressed orange juice and steaming tea.

Since we cannot sit still we hit the road to explore the neighborhood. We love rough nature and love to feel its enormous power. We expected to miss out on this point on this journey. Southern Italy has a beautiful landscape, but you see a lot of flat land with countless olive trees.

This time, we wanted to concentrate on exchange with the locals and explore the culinary part, thus leaving our walking boots at home. However, we realized it to be a mistake soon enough when we took the stony way to a wooden bridge which led through a rugged valley. The Murgia’s rocky landscape is stunningly beautiful, you can wander around on small trails and marvel at the numerous caves and old churches. Our adventurous hearts beat faster, even when an icy, uncomfortable wind greets us. Furthermore, a deep gray front carrying rain is building up in front of us, which finally leads us to turn back. Patches of mist waft through the city and give it an even more enchanted look. Since we cannot refrain from taking photos and want to catch more and more pictures, we return to the hotel completely soaked. We warm ourselves in our cozy cave before we want to continue our task to explore the traditional cuisine of Matera.

The city has a lot of authentic restaurants which offer the regional classics. However, you cannot travel to Italy without having a bombastic pizza. At least, this is true for Yannic, so we first visit a Neapolitan pizzeria in the heart of the old city. The dough rest for 48 hours and thus is almost fermented, the crust is thick, crispy on the outside, soft and aromatic on the inside. In this restaurant, as well, they focus on the regional products. On an extra menu, the origin of every ingredient is listed and explained. In all restaurants we visit you can taste how careful every product is selected.

On the 4 days we spend we often just roam the ancient city and marvel at it from every corner. Again and again we meet possible dead ends, which on a closer look turn out to be narrow ways. A maze made of stone and caves. During the day, but especially at nightfall, the optical illusion is perfect. When everything fades into a soft, dark blue and the first warm lights illuminate the streets, the city has an even other charm. One evening, we wanted to catch this special moment to get a panoramic shot. Just this moment, an old man shuffles towards us, tugs at our sleeves and indicates us to follow him. It seems he wants to show us something. We follow him in the hope of a better view or a fascinating story. The sky is turning darker, but we do not want to be rude and let him guide us further through the maze of alleys. Meanwhile, he points out peculiarities to us like an antique cat-flap, over which he laughs, or the old rain gutters in the streets. He tells us about the house of his childhood and points down another flight of stairs every time. Finally there, he shows us fossilized seashells on a wall and tells us stories in Italian, which probably are all very exciting. But we don’t understand a word. Eventually we say good bye and hurry back, up the many stairs to our spot to catch the last light.

Afterwards, it is time to eat again. We try to taste as many specialities as possible, for example the pastry Taralli and of course, Orecchiette, which origin here. The little pasta ears are the culinary symbol of the City of Bari but are eaten in all of Apulia and are even considered a national dish. A typical recipe is Orecchiette alla pugliese, with cima di rapa, a cabbage similar to broccoli, with garlic, olive oil and chili – ready.

We do not only eat the classic version but also Orecchiette with a spic pumpkin sauce, cultivated with pepperoni Cruschi. That are dried peppers which are roasted in olive oil.

Furthermore, we are allowed to visit a traditional bakery. We learn everything about preparing Pane di Matera and watch amazed how hundreds of loaves get pulled out of the old oven. They carefully are palpated, sometimes flipped over and pushed back into the oven until all of them are golden yellow and smell lovely. During the tour we also hear a lot about the city’s history. It roots back further than we actually thought, 9000 years already. Wicked! Moreover, we learn that many millennia ago, Matera was below sea level. We think of our old friend and the fossilized shells at the wall. They must have been in the stone for an eternity before it was turned into his home. Only now we realize that he was a child when he was one of the inhabitants who were forced to resettle in the newly built outskirts of the city. Even if many people did not want to go back to the poor conditions, he definitely seems to connect special memories with the time in the Sassi, and you could see the pride in his eyes to be part of this history.

On our last day, one day before Christmas, the first sunbeams wake us at 7.00. We planned a short hike to shoot two photos in the right light. Afterwards, the wonderful breakfast awaits us for the last time. We boost ourselves, pack our stuff and head off to Ostuni, our second destination of our Italy trip.

42 Comments

  • Einfach nur WOW! Danke für diesen wunderbaren Bericht. Ich bin völlig fasziniert von Euren Erlebnissen und den Fotos, die wirken wie aus einer anderen Welt.
    Liebe Grüße Lea

    • Danke liebe Lea! Das freut uns riesig! Wir arbeiten auch schon fleißig am zweiten Teil unserer Reise…aber es sind sooooo viele Fotos. Wie soll man sich da nur entscheiden *heul

    • einfach nur wow—-so ein Haus im Felsen würde mir schon gefallen

    • Das darfst du gerne fragen aber eine ganz konkrete Antwort hab ich leider nicht. Ich bin immer mal wieder über Bilder auf Pinterest gestolpert und habe das Hotel dann auch auf verschiedenen Seiten wie Urlaubsarchitektur (www.urlaubsarchitektur.de) und Designhotels (https://www.designhotels.com) entdeckt. Das ist schon länger her aber wenn man dann immer wieder auf etwas zurück kommt, bleibt es halt im Kopf. Liebe Grüße, Susann

  • Ich bin vor einiger Zeit auf den Link von den zauberhaften Sextantio Hotelgrotten gestossen und dachte, da muss ich irgendwann hin – und jetzt aaah…. hab ich eure wundervollen Fotos und den tollen Reisebericht darüber gelesen und mich packt die Reiselust. So schön und einzigartig!

    • Na dann nix wie los Ursula! Man sollte manche Dinge nicht zu lange vor sich her schieben. Seit 6 oder 7 Jahren möchte ich so gerne nach Island. Jetzt ist gefühlt jeder zweite gerade dort, sodass viele Plätze total überlaufen sind. Auf der anderen Seite der tollen Fotomotive stelle ich mir deswegen nun immer eine große, laute Meute mit Kamera in der Hand vor, anstelle der Weite und Einsamkeit, die ich so liebe…

  • Halloo! Und daaanke!
    Gerade gestern hat mein Mann unbezahlten Urlaub bewilligt bekommen und wir planen einen längren Road Trip mit unseren Kindern durch Süditalien. Über Matera habe ich vor wenigen Tagen zum ersten Mal gelesen. Steht definitiv auf unserer Bucket List. Orecchiete mit Cime di rapa gehören aber schon heute zu meinen Lieblingspastagerichten.
    Alles Liebe
    Michèle

    • Liebe Michèle, ein langer Roadtrip durch Süditalien hört sich wunderbar an! Wir hätten dort auch gerne noch mehr Zeit verbracht aber das ist nur ein Grund wiederzukommen :) Ich wünsche euch ganz viel Spaß und so unvergessliche Erlebnisse, wie wir sie hatten. Wir haben so viel kulinarische Inspiration von unserem Trip mitgenommen. Ein ganz simpler sind zerbröselte und in Olivenöl angeröstete Tiralli auf der Pasta. Am liebsten die Variante mit Chili aber mit Fenchel ist das Gebäck auch super lecker. Hach…

    • Oh, du machst mich glustig. Jetzt freue ich mich gleich noch mehr. Danke 1000!

  • Ich verfolge euren Blog jetzt schon sehr lange und finde es immer wieder wahnsinnig toll, wie schön eure Fotos sind!! Ihr habt wirklich ein Auge für ganz besondere und einzigartige Details und Momente. Einfach wunderbar!
    Und bei dieser netten Geschichte packt mich gleich das Reisefieber ;)
    Alles Liebe aus Wien, Corina

    • Hej Corina, danke für deine lieben Worte! Wie schön, dass wir dich mit unserem Beitrag inspiriert haben. Das freut uns riesig! Hab einen tollen Abend, Susann

  • Ihr zwei seufz – ich habe mich natürlich gleich in die Backstube verliebt. Das sind die besten – die ohne großen Namen. Danke fürs mitnehmen und das ihr nocht bloggt!!!!

    • Hab ich mir doch gedacht, dass dir das gefällt :) Schade, dass es mit der Verständigung etwas schwierig war. Der Herr war sehr wortkarg, sodass wir das meiste eigentlich nur von der Dolmetscherin erfahren haben. Aber zugucken war auch schon spannend. Und natürlich bloggen wir noch! Warum auch nicht?! Liebe Grüße, Susann

  • Being Italian, I can’t quite believe I haven’t visited Matera yet. It’s been on my list for way too long. Your reportage is absolutely moving – just stunning. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • These photos are absolutely stunning! I love the moodiness you’ve captured – it makes the entire place feel mysterious and dark in the most appealing way possible! Now I want to visit Matera more than ever.

  • Oh du meine Güte, ihr Zwei. Wie wunderbar ihr es dort hattet und wie einzigartig ihr es wiedergegeben habt. Ich war total dabei! <3 DANKE !

  • Irgendwas rührt ihr immer an in mir mit euren Bildern. So eine große Sehnsucht (schon wieder).
    Schön, dass ich euch kenne. Wirklich.

    Die liebsten Grüße aus einem leicht verschneiten und sehr glatten Mannheim.
    — L

  • Wow, die Fotos lassen die Stadt ja echt krass wirken! Jetzt hab ich grad Lust bekommen mal nach Matera zu reisen, auch dank den Bildern vom Essen :)

    Schöne Grüße, Martin

    • Das solltest du unbedingt machen Martin! Und wir haben die ganzen Leckereien, die wir sonst noch verputzt haben, ja nicht einmal fotografiert. Nomnom.

  • Ich hab Matera sofort auf meine Bucket List gesetzt und meinen Freund darüber in Kenntnis gesetzt. Danke für die tollen Bilder – ich würde am liebsten sofort los!

  • Vor 16 Jahren war ich einmal in Matera. Ich war dort im Spätsommer und habe den unglaublichen Reiz und Charme der Stadt geliebt.Von euren Fotos und eurem Bericht geht eine so enorme Kraft und Schönheit, dass ich dort unbedingt wieder hin fahren möchte. Wunderschön!!!

  • Was ihr hier zeigt ist ganz großes Kino! Respekt und Anerkennung! Eure Art zu fotografieren trifft genau mein Geschmack. Apropos Geschmack: Ich bin durch den Vollwert-Blog von Melanie und Sönke heute zu euch gestoßen und werde jetzt öfters vorbei schauen.

  • So ein interessanter Bericht und wundervolle Impressionen :-) Eure Fotos sind wirklich immer etwas ganz Besonderes! Man bekommt richtig Sehnsucht…

    Vielen Dank

  • No word, absolutely fantastic images and full of mood… (a bit Lord of Rings) I living around Matera in Potenza Chief Town of Basilicata or Lucania, and I’m photographer. Chapeau!

  • Wir sind Wohnmobilfahrer. Wo ist der nächst gelegene Campingplatz von dieser wunderbaren Stadt, um eventuell zu Fuß die Stadt zu erreichen?

    Danke und liebe Grüße

    • Lieber Anton, leider können wir dir bei deiner Frage nicht weiterhelfen. Tut mir so leid! Im Internet kannst du dich darüber aber bestimmt schlau machen. Falls ihr euch auf den Weg nach Matera macht, wünsche ich euch wahnsinnig viel Spaß dabei diese besondere Stadt zu entdecken! Liebe Grüße, Susann

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newsletter

Don't miss any new recipes, culinary stories or events! Sign up for our newsletter and get an email for all Krautkopf news and new posts.

Thanks for registering.

 

In order to prevent abusive use by third parties, we have sent you a confirmation link to your e-mail address. Please click it to confirm your subscription.

 

Scroll to top