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19 September 2007


We visited Matera.

Matera is a very old town where the people used to live in caves. Matera is built on top of the ridge now, but in the old days the people lived below the city inside the mountain. They had a complete city including churches, shops, houses and water containers, all dug out of the rocks.We went in with someone who was involved with the restoration of the caves.

Years ago a politician came by to visit the place and he was shocked by the sight of people still living there. He passed a law that forbade people to live in the caves any longer. Soon the caves were abandoned. They even disposed of the water that had filled the containers for centuries.

After they realized that they also had something very valuable in their midst, they went back to restore the caves. When they tried to fill up the fresh water containers again, they found out that the water was disappearing into the stone as quickly as it was poured in. After a study they found out that the people who had built the caves used some kind of egg-white with which they treated the walls of the water containers, so they would be watertight. Now they are trying to restore even that.

Some people even went back into the caves because they didn’t like living in houses on top of the ridge.

During the period in which the caves were abandoned, thieves came along to chop out the faces of centuries-old frescos. Now they are behind bars.In the lower picture you can see how they have been carving off the surface in order to take out the entire face of this fresco.

This place was also the setting for the last scene of the Mel Gibson movie The Passion Of The Christ.

A Man And His Horse

At the end of this leg of the trip, we even met a farmer who lived in the same space as his horse did. The farmhouse was just one big space and in the back there was a second level where the man slept and the stable for the horse was underneath his bed.

18 September 2007

Free Range

Another thing that struck me was the fact that farmers here would still have all their animals walking free and amongst each other. On the premises you would find cows, pigs, chickens, geese, dogs and cats all walking loose. Even in Portugal and Spain you would not find such circumstances. European rules strictly forbid this because of fear for diseases.
I wonder why this is still the case here in the south of Italy. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the “Slow Food” organization finds its roots in Italy. I don’t know. Italians are the people that value true taste more than any other European and they try to hold on to their “appellation” as no one else.

17 September 2007

Bare Sand

The countryside of Italy is something special. We have traveled through tracts of land that were totally abandoned. I’m talking miles and miles. There was one part that used to be the biggest grain producing area of Italy that now lies fallow.All villages had been abandoned and the fields were bare sand.