Italy, Matera Guide (B): Matera - A Tale of Two Cities
It was an astonishing introduction to Matera, the town that was built in the rocks tumbling down the side of the ravine La Gravina, through which the river of the same name flows. I stepped through a small archway and was immediately chased away by a local with his dog shouting “privato”. In the face of such menacing behaviour (the man not his dog) I retreated. Then I decided to stand my ground and defend my right to be there by pointing out, in his mother tongue, that I had been directed there by a sign ‘itinerario turistico’. His attitude changed immediately and he waved me through with a gracious “prego” (welcome).
My objective was the Rupestrian church of Santa Barbara which I found at the bottom of two flights of steep steps. But the iron gate guarding the caves was securely padlocked and no opening times were displayed. There was nothing to indicate it may be opening any time soon but nevertheless I perched on a nearby wall to wait and see and to enjoy the beauty of the dramatic scenery around me. It was a bizarre mixture of rugged slopes plunging down to the river punctuated with caves and topped by modern apartment buildings. ...... (follow the instructions below for accessing the rest of this article).
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