20th April 15 – Arrived back in Italy after the short ferry trip from Sicily, and rode the 300k to Acquafredda (it means ‘cold water’), an outlying district on the northern coast of Maratea, were Dave and Ray were staying. Must say Davey boy excelled himself with this lovely hotel. Dave’s ‘man flu’ has developed into a chest infection, and was was not much better, so off to the local chemist to buy some ‘over the counter’ antibiotics…. gotta love that!
We decided to hunker down here for three nights, as it was cheap (40 euro for bed, breakfast and dinner each day… not bad at all). It was a good location and all in all a great hotel, with a lovely vista – breath taking sea views. There are 44 churches in the 67 square km area of Maratea… now that’s holy! Acquafredda is in the Maratea district.
21st April – Headed about 2.5 hours west of Maratea to the cave town of Matera, located in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. More stunning windy roads and scenery for us to behold as we worked our way up through and over the hills. On the way, we saw so many eagles soaring above. At one time there were probably 30 or more soaring so majestically above us; we soon came to know that this was not an uncommon sight.
The cave dwelling district of Matera is called the sassi and was inhabited for centuries up until in the early 1950s, when all the residents were ‘removed by law’ to modern buildings on the plateau above. The caves were regarded as a poverty area due to the squalid malaria ridden conditions and overcrowding. The town was declared a UNESCO work heritage site in 1993, for being ‘the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte (one who lives in a cave) settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and echo system’. We were told that today, more and more of the old caves are being converted into a range of comfortable dwellings such as homes, hotels BnBs etc…. seems they have become fashionable again. Matera is one of the locations that Mel Gibson used in his film ‘The Passion of Christ’.
We spent a remarkable couple of hours wandering the sassi districts. The town is very dense, cramped even. The grey houses seem to be on top of each other as they overlook the deep ravine. There are so many small lanes and alley ways that are very steep and mostly stepped. It is easy to loose one’s bearings – it almost felt like we are in a maze… thank God for Span’s inmate sense of direction! We made our way to the highest point to see the beautiful basilica, only to find it was all scaffed off and closed for renovations. Bugger! We certainly worked off breakfast this day!
We did however make our way to one of the 12th century churches in the town that was totally excavated in the rock. This church is characterised by ‘negative architecture’, because it was not built, but rather is entirely dug in the rock. There was also a monastery, a wine press and the crypt of St Nicholas, plus so much more. It is remarkable to think that these were carved out by people so very long ago. It must have been so cold and damp.
It was again lovely to see the older folk sitting in the afternoon sun outside the church in the square, just chatting and watching all the visitors to their remarkable town.
We are always amazed by the surreal feeling each day, that we are on the other side of the world…. in places we have only previously read / heard about, or seen in pictures. Now every day, all our senses are being stimulated and delighted by all this. We are very thankful, and do realise how lucky we are to be here!
22nd April 2015
Decided on a short ride only today. Dave still not well, so he and Ray decided on another day’s R&R. Maggie was keen though, so off we went, heading to Marina Di Camerota, which was about a four hour round trip, north along the coast and through the hills from Acquafredda. Another great ride on lively winding roads and more glorious scenery. You must be sick of hearing that!
Stopped along the beach for an icecream (don’t tell Dave n Ray).
Passed a roadside statue of Jesus Christ, that had the most exquisite wisteria around it. Dotted along the coast and on the hills are what look to be old lookouts or forts, all sadly falling into disrepair.
Back at our digs, and we decided to go for a walk down to the very, very rocky shoreline. Dipped one toe into the lovely pool on the way past, then down, down, down we went, passing many bright green lizards that were sunning themselves on the rocks. They were in no hurry to move, and only scurried away when we were right beside them. Even then, if we walked quietly, and did not move, they just watched us. Bit of a Mexican stand off really.
Once down at the water, we were entertained by two fishermen who were trying to land one of them on the sharp, rugged ,rocky shore. What entertainment it was. The sea was relatively calm, however it still tried to push the boat into the sharp rocks. The boat owner (well we think he was, cause he was shouting and gesticulating the most), was hilarious. Once his companion finally jumped clear of the boat, he was off… With what we can only guess was a stream of profanities and rude gestures.
The evening meal was usually preceded by drinks and nibbles out on the patio at the front of the hotel, and beside our bikes. Generally a lot of silly banter and discussion on the next day was the order of the day. Dave was keen to head straight to Rome (still not well), and will booked accommodation at a caravan park there for us all. Span and I decided to head further north up the coast to see the renowned Amalfi Coast.
Summary of Italy to date…
Siesta …. everything shuts down for siesta between 1 – 1.30pm to 3.30-4pm each day. The streets are like a ghost town, with all the shops shuttered and closed
Sundays / Public holidays – the women are not to be seen in the mornings. The men are out, usually sitting around having a chat, playing cards or just watching the world go by.
Anniversary billboards – there are boards with A3 size posters in the towns that show that anniversary of loved ones who have passed.
Our Lady – statues of Our Lady are everywhere along the roadside and nestled in the hills.
Fuel …. on average 20c dearer per litre on the Autostrada
Loaves of bread are sold by weight
All the hotels have only fine plastic cups in the rooms for drinking. All pre packed.
Tunnels and bridges – in the mountainous areas the tunnels can be less than a hundred metres, or indeed they can be kilometres long. On one journey, we passed through twenty tunnels in twenty minutes. There are half tunnels across the road to protect the road from land slips as well. Long high bridges traverse the ravines and rivers.
Street sweepers – we often see people sweeping the streets with old fashioned brooms.