I recently did a post about my visit to Dubrovnik, and it was so much fun that I think it's time for another travel post!
Welcome to Matera, Italy! It's such a cool city to wander, and when you visit the ancient Sassi area and see the cave dwellings . . . well, it feels like you stepped back in time.
This is a view of Sassi, and the one day we spent here did NOT give us enough time to explore!
But I'm getting ahead of myself!
We started our day in Matera in the more modern part of the city, which still looks pretty darn cool and old to me!
The deeper you go, the older the city becomes. Then you reach a square and see an example of how cities get built on top of each other over time:
This is a spot where they're excavating, and whenever I see things like this, I just have to stop and marvel at how OLD Europe is. I love it!
One of the coolest things we saw as we got closer to Sassi was the Chiesa del Purgatorio--The Church of the Purgatory. It sits right on the street, so it's hard to get a super good picture of the exterior. But it is probably the most unique church I've ever visited. (Well . . . There was another really unique church I visited later in the day . . . but let's focus on this one first!)
Check out those doors!
Yes, those are skulls and bones on the doors of that church--including skulls with crowns and important headdresses, just in case everyone needed the reminder that even rich and powerful people will die.
Crazy cool, right!? There's a reason I was grinning when I saw it...It's just so unique!
When we walked in, I was surprised to see how colorful everything was.
And, randomly, there was an art exhibit going on that day.
Can I just say I LOVE when those random things happen on a trip? I feel like they make even better memories! (Once, while I was in Bath, my cousin and I walked into a church and there was a bake sale going on, put on by the local kids. It was so fun--and delicious!)
Anyway, there were these really cool (and sometimes creepy) bronze statues scattered throughout the church. It was felt like a very fitting display for this unique church, dedicated to purgatory.
My favorite statue was actually on the middle of the floor:
Lilith, the fabled first wife of Adam. I thought it was such a haunting statue, and the detail is insane!
Here are some more views of the church:
And then, in case you forgot we were in a chruch dedicated to purgatory, notice the skull above the door...
That church really captured my imagination, but there were other amazing things to see, so I'll move this along :)
As you get closer to Sassi, you suddenly find yourself at the edge of another time.
We entered the older section, which you can see behind us--but there's an even older section at the bottom, so we started our hike down.
It's truly gorgeous! And I loved finding spots of greenery and flowers as we were increasingly surrounded by stone.
Finally, we made it to the edge of the city.
It drops off right there. This is me, standing at the wall.
I decided not to use the bridge...I was OK staying on this side of the cliff :)
All along the mountainsides here are caves, and the people who settled the area turned these caves into their homes. They even made some caves into churches! Usually only a little modifying was needed to make the caves large enough to inhabit, and it kept them cooler on hot summer days.
This picture shows you the cliff wall on one side, and the doors to the cave houses on the other. So cool, right?
And here's an example of one of their stone churches:
You can see how some of it is natural, and some of it is man-made.
Here I am inside one of their smaller cave churches--which is the second most unique church I've ever stepped foot in:
The picture below is another angle of this cave church, and you can clearly see the smooth brick that was man-made, and the natural face of the cave.
We also toured one of the cave houses, which was decorated so you could get a taste of what it would have been like to live there.
It was pretty tight quarters (not just because there was a large group of us there) but it's basically one large room that's sectioned off. There's a stable area:
And just opposite your donkey is where the bed was located:
Notice the cradle at the foot of the bed? 1-2 children would sleep in that, another couple would sleep at the foot of the large bed, and then if you had more children they would sleep in the pulled-out drawers of your large family dresser, which you can see below (black, with lots of stuff stacked on top :)
This is one of the larger homes, because you also have this niche for the kitchen:
Now, look closely at that stove. Seem a little too modern? that's because people were still living in these dwellings in the 1950s! Why mess with a good thing, right?
Matera is such a unique and beautiful city, with so much to see and explore! I loved it, and I would easily go back because one day just wasn't enough!
Leave me a comment to let me know if you had a favorite part of this virtual tour of Metera! Which church did you think was the most unique? I'd love to hear your thoughts!