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.
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.
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.