Matera is an amazing place. It's so ancient that filmakers & historians feel it is what Old Jerusalem may have looked like - Mel Gibson's recent film The Passion used Matera as a real-life film set (there are a few signed photos around in cafes!) I
Modern Matera is fairly ordinary but as our taxi swept round the corner from the train station and down to the old city (the "Sassi") the view was just breathtaking. I'm glad we stayed in the "Sassi" (it means stone) old part of Matera because it was so peaceful and beautiful at night.
The city is slowly being restored. It has been designated a World Heritage Site and now funds are available to help preserve it. It was a slum area for years with generations living there in poverty in the cave dwellings (visit the tiny museum showing how they lived - it's fascinating!). It was only quite recently, in the 1950s, that the government moved the poplulation out and into better quality housing with running water & electricity. It seems that the city then slowy started to just rot away. Now, enterprising people are moving back in and doing up the unique properties . We stayed in a lovely hotel - Hotel Sant'Angelo. We went to Matera in October and the weather was warm & comfortable. I think its a long-weekend destination rather than a week's holiday.