We decide that trying to squeeze into a bus with our luggage will not happen, no amount of prior practice in nudging people out of the way would get us on, so we want to get a transfer to Salerno. I spot a nice looking Italian man dropping some American tourists to a fancy Hotel and I approach him for a ride for us. Flavio says he will speak to his boss and will text me back with a price. Sure enough next day we get a text with a good price. I try and communicate exactly where to pick us up but the boss does not speak English. Also complicating the situation we have no mobile signal in the apartment, so I need to track out along the beach to pick some up. An interesting conversation ensures with me saying Friday at 8am and he keeps agreeing with yes tomorrow at 8am ( tomorrow is actually Thursday) so I keep correcting with my best Italian pronunciation Venerdi . Anyway in the end I take a photo of the pick up point and try and send it to him, Oops no 3G here, so I track up the hill back to the road and when I finally extend my 6 foot arm the picture goes:) I think we are set. Just in case we do not surface out of this adventure I leave André the phone number I have been in communications with in case of a kidnapping!
Indeed right on 8am lovely Marco arrives and when he hears that Tanya does not do windy roads well, he says “ No to worry I am a very good driver” , sure enough he even stops in the middle of the very narrow road for Tanya to take the last parting photo.
We get to Salerno and pick up our manual Citroën neatly parked between a car in front ( 3cm leeway) and a motorcycle 3.5cm leeway. It already has evidence of very close encounters with other stationary objects.
I insist on the car being pulled out by the attendants and to that the man that owns the motocycle ( bigger than a Vespa) runs out of the cafe and lifts the motorcycle out of the way, it seemed, if I was driving he was going to enjoy the show!
OK we load up and enter the narrow, crazy, honking streets of Salerno our destination Matera 200km away. We quickly establish that Tanya going “Oh my God “ and “ OOOH” are not helpful and she should just stick to navigational noises. I have not driven a manual for 27 years and the gear shift then was on the Australian side. Initially I catch myself trying to shift with my left hand not right and a whole new appreciation of André and his driving skills washes over me. At least the indicators are on the same side as on my Golf 🙂
We arrive to Matera which is a restricted historical zone and only residents are allowed in, we need to park outside the city and then bring our luggage in. We are met by Giuseppe who guides us to the Gradelle Penino our accommodation for the night.
The view from the terazza is breathtaking. We move in and it’s time to explore the city by foot.
We have our own cute bell should someone want to visit.
Matera is a fascinating city with an incredibly rich history going back to the IVth century as it is surrounded by fertile plains separated by two deep ravines with flowing fresh water and because of that, safe from invasion. Dwellings initially were carved into the caves but as it gradually became a wealthy city clergy, artists, professionals and merchants started building big houses.
The architecture now is incredible and Matera has been selected as the cultural city of Europe for 2019, an honor that it hard to win and as it is only bestowed once a year, many European cultural cities seek this honor . The application process takes 6 years and carries great significance to the town, it’s residents and the local communities as it raises the profile of the town and brings a lot of interest, tourism and additional funds.
We of course are not saved steps to navigate the place but they are well worth all the little surprises we encounter. Tanya now has a knee that is twice the size of her good knee and although it’s a bit of a hobble for her, there is not a single complaint, just an occasional sound effect in a very cute squeaky voice “ ouch”.
We find an interesting clay down pipe arrangement.
Lots of little courtyards often housing cute restaurants.
We learn more about the history of the town and how it deteriorated to tiny, dark non aerated hovels in the Rocks with, humans, children and animals with their excrement all housed in a single cave dwelling with the only opening a door. The poverty was indescribable after the middle class left the city. It became a national embarrassment to the Government and in the 1950’s the inhabitants were forcefully removed.
It is truely a testament to human determination that the city has revived and looks so full of life, joy and is so beautiful.
As we head towards home we come across a little stand alone newsagency and we are clearly preceding the Condé Nast recommendations.
Its time for dinner and we choose a cute little restaurant in the Piazza de Sedile.
I choose a little medley of local Terre dishes and Tanya selects an amazing leek ravioli with shaved fresh truffle.
The food is just right, washed down by a little Aperol, Tanya tasting her way on this little Italian specialty.
Very content we make our way home, a cute little courtyard captures our attention just before we get there.
We finish the night with a cup of tea and some fig and almond cookies on our Terazza.
It’s been a beautiful day.