I never feel luckier than when I’m walking the streets of Matera, this magical town, in the deep south of Italy. As a part of our Puglia Workshop, we include 3 days here, just over the border into the region of Basilicata. We stay in the center of the “sassi”, the caves that are the prehistoric foundation of this great town. In fact our hotel rooms are caves, although the five-star-appointed-type of cave.
Get ready for a leg workout, because the place is a maze of winding stairways. They publish a map with different routes you can walk, and that’s fine, but I prefer launching out without a plan. (Maybe not something I should admit as a tour guide?) But since we stay a few days, there’s time to get a little lost and it’s always rewarding.
For street shooting, this place is as good as it gets. Locals are welcoming, or at worst indifferent about being photographed, and the lines and angles of the buildings and roads are surprising at every turn. The “modern” town of Matera, up top, offers typical southern Italian street scenes, but then as you dive down into the ancient “sassi” area, where people have carved their houses into the soft stone for over 2000 years, the town becomes more like old Jerusalem. In fact, several films about the holy land have been made here, notably The Passion of the Christ and the latest Ben Hur.
We always spend at least one evening with an overlook of the town from across the river gorge. There are several places that make for great panoramas, but the most popular is called Belvedere, literally “nice view”. From the large parking lot, escape the tour bus crowd and head down the path into the gorge. As you descend you’ll find all sorts of caves opening to the city view and get a feel for the place 500 years ago.
Our Puglia Workshop, April 3-10, 2019 will include 3 days in nearby Matera. Learn more!