September 19, 2018 |
Matera, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the remote region of Basilicata, southern Italy, is set for a truly memorable year as European Capital of Culture for 2019.
Until the 1950s it was a deprived city plagued with poverty and disease, where farmers and peasants lived in the neighbourhood of prehistoric caves – the Sassi – in limestone grottoes with no natural light, electricity or running water. Now, 70 years on, Matera enjoys a thriving 21st century culture and most of the caves have been converted into hotels, restaurants, bars and homes.
Used as a film location for both Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’ and BBC TV show ‘Italy Unpacked’, with Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli, the city is a labyrinth of narrow alleyways, uneven stone staircases, cave churches, rocky slopes and expansive views of the Sassi.
Since Matera was chosen as European Capital of Culture 2019 four years ago, the Italian government has invested €400 million in developing and improving the city, as well as updates to its infrastructure, in advance of the anticipated increased levels of tourism. A programme of cultural events across the city throughout the year will include classical music festivals, film and public arts events, plus dance and theatre performances.
Sunvil has been an Italy specialist since 1979, offering authentic experiences, handpicked accommodation and flexible holidays, based on its expert knowledge of the many Italian regions, the country’s history, culture and of course, its food.
Sample packages from Sunvil:
Basilicata and Puglia – a seven-night fly-drive along the Adriatic Coast
At your leisure, take in the wonderful Baroque towns, vineyards, secluded coves and golden beaches of Basilicata and Puglia on the Adriatic Coast, including as a first stop Matera, where you can hop on an electric Tuk-Tuk for a guided ride around the ancient city and marvel at the stunning viewpoints en route. The tour includes a two-night stay at the Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita Hotel, a unique hotel built into the prehistoric caves of Sassi. It took ten years for the hotel to be created from its former Sassi status to the remarkable boutique hotel it is today, and the rooms are beautifully crafted using natural features such as archways, vaulted ceilings and stone flooring. The candlelit restaurant is set within an ancient 13th century church with stunning views of the Parco della Murgia Materana (Park of the Rupestrian Churches), the regional park featuring churches carved out of the caves and cliffs. The hotel is the perfect base to explore the ancient churches, cathedrals and museums of Matera. The Basilicata and Puglia trip costs from £1,345 pp (two sharing), including seven nights’ B&B hotel accommodation, flights (Gatwick) and car hire.
A Taste of Apulia & the Amalfi Coast – a seven-night chauffeur-driven tour of Puglia, Basilicata and Campania
For those keen to experience the thrilling views of the Amalfi Coast, this tour passes through the towns of Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, with expert-led tours in Lecce, Otranto, Paestum and Matera, where you’ll be introduced to the town, its Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, plus you’ll visit an iconic cave, some 20 feet high and 100 feet deep, adorned with images of giant saints and angels. The tour includes an overnight stay at the Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita Hotel. A Taste of Apulia & the Amalfi Coast costs from £2,344 pp (four sharing), including seven nights’ four and five-star B&B hotel accommodation, three light lunches with wine tasting, the services of a private driver and official guides.
To book or to talk to an expert at Sunvil, please call 020 8758 4722 or visit www.sunvil.co.uk.
About Sunvil: Award-winning Sunvil has pioneered many specialist destinations in its 48-year history and has been at the forefront of environmental initiatives and good practice for over 30 years.