Matera: Il Simbolo Dell’Italia

Between the 1970’s and 1990’s, Matera was considered one of the most dangerous places in Europe- no one would consider going there to sight-see or for a leisurely stroll. Thanks to assistance from the European Union, the city of Matera was able to re-make itself.

Today, the city of Matera and its two Sassi (Literally meaning stones-but are actually two of the residential precincts built into two different cliff-sides of Matera) are host to tourists, artists, and architects alike. The city is even a European Capital of Culture candidate for 2019.

It’s difficult not to be inspired by Matera.

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The magic of being in Matera is much different from the unintentional Disneyland-like magic of Venice. Built into calcareous rock rather than constructed in a water-lagoon, the historical centre of Matera, like rock, gives its visitors a more solid and grounded sense of being. Activating the body with its many stairs, overlooking heights, fresh air, and churches located a hike away (down a cliff side, across a river, and up another cliff side), being in the historical centre of Matera may often make one ponder the meaning of life.

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Now without getting too sentimental and contemplating the meaning of life- my friend Claudia and our guide said a few things that inspired me to view Matera as a symbol of Italy, hence this post’s title, Il Simbolo Dell’Italia. The calcareous stone Matera’s two Sassi are built into corrupts over time- yet they look beautiful in the light. And when looking at an aerial view of Matera and its two Sassi, our guide said that one may see the shape of a dove- its wings formed by the two Sassi, and its body by the stone formation separating the two Sassi in the middle.

It’s perhaps an interesting coincidence that a city that transformed from one of the most avoided places in Europe to a sought after holiday destination can be said to have the aerial shape of a dove- a symbol of hope and peace. Like Matera’s calcareous stone, although the Italian government is known to have particularly high levels of corruption, on a sunny day especially- the state’s corruption becomes a minor thought, and the innate beauty of Italy shines through. Governments don’t often serve the true beauty of their states in any case.