Materia was once known as Italy’s ‘shame’ due to its once abandoned past, but it has now made 180 in the tourism department.
The opening scenes of James Bond’s latest installment begin with an incredibly beautiful Italian city. Son Matera in the southern Italian province of Matera (near the boot of Italy) and lies in two canyons which were carved out by the Gravina river. The film does not show the Sassi di Matera – a complex of cave dwellings carved out of the canyon.
Like the rest of Italy, Matera has a rich history stretching back to the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans and many more. Matera is in Basilicata – the beautiful secret region of southern Italy.
Matera is famous for its ancient city the “Sassi di Matera”. The Sassi are originally from a prehistoric troglodyte colony (a troglodyte colony is where the inhabitants live in caves). They are even thought to be some of the very first human settlements in Italy.
Matera is a cave city in Basilicata and may even be the third oldest city in the world (after Aleppo and Jericho). And yet despite his age, because of his poverty, the government tried to displace the population in the 1950s.
The myriad of natural caves have a history stretching back many years. But now cave hotels are becoming one of Europe’s most exotic experiences – a trend that is likely to continue with films like James Bond being shot there.
- The oldest : Matera could be one of the oldest permanently inhabited settlements in the world
- Patrimony: Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 1,500: Number of alveolate troglodyte dwellings The ravine
One of the peculiarities of the Mediterranean is that it is full of beautiful historic towns like Matera. Many of them are not touristy or well known but could easily become the next tourist destination. Mardin in particular is well known in Turkey as a tourist destination, but not outside it (there are also incredible cave hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey).
Besides James Bond, he starred in other films including “The passion of Christ” (2004), “Ben Hur” (2016), and “Mary Magdalene“(2018).
From the “shame of Italy” to a tourist hotspot
In the 1950s, the entire population (mainly peasants and farmers) was forcibly displaced into new housing projects. It left the city like an empty shell. In the words from a local, it was “abandoned, practically handed over to the wolves.“Many caves today remain dangerous and uninhabitable.
It might be hard to believe from what you see in the James Bond film, but this city was known for its extreme poverty, poor sanitation and illnesses. But since the 1980s its fortunes have been reversed and it has grown into a renowned tourist attraction with a variety of hotels, museums and restaurants.
Matera is one of the cities that has managed to come full circle. If one visits Matera now, it is easy to forget that until recently it was considered a disgrace of Italy (for its poverty).
It’s a testament to how famous tourist spots become and a prime example of why many intrepid travelers seek out new, unnamed places before they become famous.
Today there is many walking and gastronomic tours of Matera. Some of them are:
Matera tour in the footsteps of James Bond
Matera is one of the world’s favorite filming locations and it featured prominently in the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die. In fact, more than 80 films of all kinds have been shot here in the city center. This The James Bond Tour meanders along the plazas and streets of Matera used in the filming of Daniel Craig’s latest 007 movie and sees some of the most spectacular scenes along the way.
- Duration: 2 hours maximum
- When: All year
- Cost: Ask for a quote
Sassi Day Trip from Matera
This is a day trip in the Sassi neighborhoods of Matera. There is a lot to see in this incredible city. During the tour you will really get to see the best of the many things Matera has to offer. These include visiting:
- Saint John the Baptist (1233): A jewel of Romanesque style
- Casa Cava: An old quarry transformed into a small contemporary theater
- Typical troglodyte downcellings: Including people evacuated in the 1950s for poor sanitary conditions
- Cathedral (1270): A sunny cathedral surrounded by sumptuous noble palaces
- Casa Noha: Where we will watch a 20 minute video of Matera
- A rock church: Has frescoes from the Middle Ages
- Museums: Palazzo Lanfranchi (Museum of the Middle Ages and Modern Art) and the Archaeological Museum
Duration: 5 hours maximum
When: All year
Cost: Ask for a quote
There are many hotels and cave accommodation waiting in Matera, they can be seen on Booking.com – the town does not seem to have a website dedicated to tourism.
Next: Cappadocia, Turkey: Why You Should Book a Hot Air Balloon Ride (& How To Do It)
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