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Report 1911: Travels in Sicily and Southern Italy

By Linda Hagstrom from Pennsylvania USA, Spring 2011

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Page 11 of 14: Still Wednesday - Matera

photo by Linda

Inside Casa Grotta, a cave dwelling

A guide introduced me to Matera the first morning. I am so glad to have had the services of a guide, and this one, Alessandra, in particular.

We walked through the sassi area, Alessandra pointing out the old walls, old towers, telling me some history, and making it very interesting. There is a lot of evidence that people lived here in the Paleolithic era.

We visited some very old churches that had been hewn out of the cliffs, with frescoes still visible. The floors are uneven rock. We visited Casa Grotta, a dwelling whose inhabitants left it in 1956. It has been furnished as it may have been when they left it, with original furnishings - a high bed, a stall for the donkey (inside the cave, to help keep it warm), a place for chickens, chamber pot, clothing and shoes, kitchen implements, a cistern underneath to store rainwater, big chests of drawers, animal feed, a board that people put on their knees to serve as a table at mealtime, etc. I loved it.

We visited more churches and Alessandra showed me how to get to my apartment from there. When we came back to my apartment, Alesssandra showed me the large cave beneath it. The new owners have cleaned it out (it took about a year to clean it out) and it is remarkable. It must have been an olive mill at one time: she showed me the grinding wheels and a large circular hole where olives were crushed. It also was used to make and store wine. Most remarkable, they found a symbol above a door - 1717 and a cup of St Lucy - that indicated it must have been a church. A series of 5 giant cisterns below filtered the water. I would guess the main room to be nearly 75 feet deep. It will be used now for receptions and parties.

I spent the rest of the day on my own, returning to Casa Grotta and walking around the sassi. Later I walked up to the newer part of town, shopped, and enjoyed the passeggiata.

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