Stage 5 | 8 October 2020 | 70 km
Montalbano Jonico >
Let yourself go, follow your instinct and wander around the stone labyrinths, where the incessant flow of time loses track of its trajectory. Capture the charm of a very ancient story and get closer to your deepest roots, starting from the heart of the Murgia plateau, from the tuff, consisting of tender and warm limestone, which is both mother and origin of Matera, the 2019 European Capital of Culture.
This soft rock has given birth to the Sassi, revealing both its cave districts: they are divided by a spectacular canyon, which is overlooked by the walls engraved in the guts of the earth of the Archaeological Park of the Rock Churches. A unique location nominated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical, archaeological and landscape value. A unique magic that, over time, has achieved the fame of an extraordinary natural film set, where, especially at sunset, you will feel part of a nativity scene, full of meaning. Pure and authentic scenery with no signs of modernity, the Murgia Materana and the Sassi have seen traces of man since prehistoric times and bear witness to the history of humanity, having been continuously inhabited.
Matera is the ideal location to taste the delicious regional cuisine and wines, bearing the DOP and IGP quality marks. Among the local specialities, there is Matera bread, with its fragrant flavour and characteristic shape that reminds of the Murgia landscapes. The bread is baked in wood-fired ovens and made using durum wheat and natural yeast. Cheeses are also exceptional, as they are produced using Podolica cattle, which can be easily spotted grazing freely in the pastures of the Murgia. Mouth-watering specialities include the ‘Fave e Cicorie’ recipe, a fava bean puree with chicory, and the ‘Crapiata’, which is the traditional mixed legume soup of Matera. ‘Matera DOC’ wines, both white and red, are also exceptional.
The Sassi of Matera are made up of two natural amphitheatres entirely carved out of the rock: the ‘Sasso Barisano’, to the north-west, which is largely formed by palaces and traditional houses, and the Sasso Caveoso, to the south, mostly made up of cave-houses. The ‘Civita’ district, which is the oldest inhabited group of buildings around the Cathedral, overlooks the lively panorama of the Sassi. As the day goes by, the colour and atmosphere of the town centre change significantly: during the day, the dazzle of the sun shines on the white limestone rock; at night, when the moonlight glows on the Sassi, you will experience the unique feeling of being in a huge nativity scene, with hundreds of small lights scattered all over.
The Parco della Murgia Materana, also known as the Historical Natural Park of the Rock Churches of Matera, boasts a natural and spiritual heritage of exceptional value, thanks to its over one hundred and fifty cave churches included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993 Some of these places of worship date back to the Romanesque period and are richly decorated with frescoes and wonderful architectural elements such as apses, quatrefoils, capitals and arches, made even more beautiful by small domes.
Outside the city, in Pietrapenta, lies the Cripta del peccato originale (Crypt of the Original Sin), known as the “Sistine Chapel” of rock-hewn churches. The Crypt is decorated with mural paintings of the Benedictine-Beneventan style, dating back to the 8th-9th centuries AD. An extraordinary cycle of frescoes which depicts, among others, episodes of the Creation and the Original Sin.