Ancient caves housed people 9,000 years ago
Located in the city of Matera, in the Basilicata region in the south of Italy, the Sassi di Matera (stones of Matera) are ancient cave dwellings that were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. It is the only place in the world where people can brag about still living in the same houses their ancestors lived in 9,000 years ago.
Matera sits on a limestone plateau, featuring a magnificent abnormality: a central 70 to 80 meter deep fissure holds the Gravina river and divides the city.
The Sassi originated from a prehistoric troglodyte settlement that dug houses into the limestone. Many of these dwellings are actually just caves and the streets in some areas of the Sassi are often the roofs of houses. The ancient town grew on one slope of the ravine created by the river that is now a small stream. The changing populations have left an intricate urban system, where the buildings overlap the natural crevices in the stone.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the districts of the Sassi were home to the poorest residents of the city. The current local administration, however, has become more tourism focused and has promoted the regeneration of the area with the assistance of the European Union, the government, UNESCO and Hollywood. Today, visitors are able to admire the original Sassi and the dwellings carved into the rock experiencing a unique sensation, much like being within a crib. There are also many thriving businesses, pubs and hotels around the site.
The stunning scenario of Matera has been the set for many famous and less-than-famous films, both national and international, including the spectacular “The Passion” by Mel Gibson.
The cradle of winemaking in northern Italy
The rolling hills, quaint villages and prized vineyards of the Langhe and Roero districts are the most charming landscapes in northern Italy’s Piedmont region. In between the Po River and the Ligurian Apennine mountains, this area, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014, contains a vast range of technical and economic processes related to the winegrowing and winemaking that have characterized the region for centuries.
For food and wine lovers, this area is the height of excellence, ideal for relaxing and enjoying the good life amid nature, art and gastronomic traditions of wining and dining.
As in the rest of Italy, the local villages and towns were long-contested divided and reapportioned again and again into various medieval communes and feudal estates, thus explaining the numerous castles and defensive structures.
Barolo, known above all for its beauty, embodies the essence of the most noble of Piedmontese wines. Tucked into the hills, Barolo was a medieval town belonging to the Gonzagas and Savoias; it is dominated by the Castello Falletti, seat of the Comune’s Enoteca and of the Museum of Peasant Life, a collection of antique objects and instruments.
Another is the castle in Grinzane Cavour, residence of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour; it is among the oldest in Langhe.
Bra, another Piedmontese town, is surrounded by the wine and cheese area of Roero and nestled amid gently rolling hills dotted with farms and vineyards.
Beautiful shorelines and breathtaking scenery
Campania, one of the regions of southern Italy, stretches along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The mild climate, the beauty of the coasts, the richness of its art and history and the love for food make Campania the fascinating area that it is.
The journey begins at the sea with its intense colors, its coasts covered with bays, coves and rock faces. The waters here boast the islands in the Gulf of Naples, Capri and Ischia — true natural masterpieces.
This region is made even more charming by the flourishing Mediterranean vegetation that alternates with its small, charming towns that narrate the history and traditions of Campania and make any stay here unforgettable.
Mount Vesuvius, gloomy and mysterious, is loved for its beauty and feared for its power. Naples, famous around the world for the intensity and passion of its music, effortlessly combines high-brow culture with the popular, the sacred with the profane, and the joyful with the melancholic.
Sorrento, a town that spreads over a terrace of tufo, seems to tumble into the sea. Throughout this view, indented and isolated coasts weave their colors with those of small and hidden beaches, creating a unique and enthralling scenery. Here, the work of man is truly monolithic. The roughest areas are now made up of a series of terraces sloping down toward the sea, used for the cultivation of citrus, olive trees and vines. These orchards give off the heady scents of oranges, lemons and orange-blossoms.
Music and entertainment; sun and sea; history and culture can all be found here. Visiting places like Paestum; Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata; the Chartreuse of Padula; and the Royal Palace of Caserta will all take you back in time and away from the ordinary.
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