Matera: a gem worth travelling for

ITALIAN GEMS

Region: Basilicata

Population: About 60,000

Claims to fame: One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, its Sassi cave dwellings are a UNESCO World Heritage site and Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of The Christ here.

Pros: Stunning natural surroundings descending into a deep ravine, not overcrowded with tourists

Cons: It is hard to reach with public transport, the train to Bari from Rome takes about four hours and then you have to change to a rickety local train which takes another 1-1/2 hours.

My experience

I hadn’t really heard about Matera until I noticed it was on the not-to-be-missed list of one of my Italy travel guides. I didn’t know what to expect, I thought it might be just another old and pretty town. When I told Italian colleagues and friends I planned to visit, some turned their noses up a bit and wondered why on…

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