Thursday, October 11, 2007

Housing styles - 9 Ocober 2007

The sassi at MateraBecause of the rain last night when we arrived, we could not explore Castelmezzano so we were relieved when today dawned dry with patchy cloud cover. Wandering aimlessly through the village we finally arrived at some signs for 'Fortezza Normanna', which we took to mean Norman Fortress, so followed the streets and stairs to the site of an old fortress which provided commanding views of the village and, over the ridge, across the countryside. We finally dragged ourselves away from this beautiful village and left town via a different route headed for Matera. 5km down the road a motorcycle policeman stopped us, indicated the road was closed and sent us back the way we had come. Passing back through Castelmezzano we felt compelled to stop for another photo opportunity before retracing our inward route from yesterday.

Looking down into Matera old town
From here the day became another World Heritage Day as the next two stops were UNESCO World Heritage sites. Matera claims to be the oldest continuously settled city in Italy having had traces of settlement going back at least 9000 years. The tourist feature is the Sassi, a huge complex of dwellings carved out of the soft tufa stone the city is built on and of. Up until a Resettlement Act in the 1950s these dwellings were still occupied by the city's poor.

Inside a sassi dwellingWe declined the offer of a personal guided tour by the professional guide even though the price dropped from €30 to €25 to €20, as neither of us thought we could cope with the Italianesque rapid-fire English for an entire hour. Instead we made our own way around the sassi and paid to visit a typical home set out and furnished as it would be in the C19th. The small space would, typically, be home to Mum & Dad, 6 children, a donkey, a pig, and several chickens.

TrulliFrom Matera we travellled across some fairly boring countryside, along basically straight 'roman' roads to Alberobello, the 'capital' of trulli country; and another UNESCO site. Trulli are houses built of limestone with drystone conical roofs similar in construction to some 'beehive' dwellings we had seen in Ireland. This type of construction does not exist elsewhere in Italy and it seems that is was begun here simply as a means of flouting building regulations.

Our trulliOur accommodation was in a trullo which consisted of a open-plan bedroom, lounge, kitchen, dining room and a separate bathroom: it was a 'trulli' delightful place to spend the night.

Inside viewAfter getting ourselves settled in we went for a wander through the trulli parts of town where there are wall to wall trulli along the streets. It makes for an amazing streetscape.

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