Matera (Italy) together with Plovdiv (Bulgaria) are sharing this year’s European Capitals of Culture title.  With this aim in mind, 43 group members of the Association of the U3E met up to pay a short visit to Matera.

After an hour’s flight to Bari and on their way to Matera, they stopped at Alberobello, a Unesco World Heritage Site known for its whitewashed stone huts with typical conical roofs better known as trulli. 

After a two-hour visit, the group left for its destination, Matera, specifically I Sassi.

In Matera, they were welcomed by their counterparts in the presence of the president of the UNITEP of Matera, Saverio Petruzzellis.

Matera, also a Unesco World Heritage Site (1993), is famous for its extensive cave-dwelling districts. The place was used in several important film shoots, particularly The Passion of the Christ.

The oldest part of Matera was built on the edge of a bare plateau overlooking a valley. Here the poorest peasants used to live in the cave-dwellings until the place was evacuated in 1960 due to lack of sanitation.

The group also visited other places of interest, among them a couple of beautiful churches like the church of St Francis of Assisi and the Duomo, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Domenico Ridola and Palazzo Lanfranchi.

The latter was a seminary, then a high school but nowadays it houses a fine exhibition of medieval and modern art of the Basilicata region.

If the place is beautiful by day it is equally magical by night. I Sassi are themselves a sight not to be missed. They look like a permanently lit Christmas crib. 

The trip to Matera ended with a short stop in Bari, where the group had time to visit the Basilica di San Nicola, where the relics of the saint lie in the crypt, Bari Cathedral and a short walk through the narrow streets admiring the intricate architecture.