Thursday, 31 May 2012


Rode a scenic major highway with almost no traffic on our way to our next destination, Matera. The road infrastructure in this part of the country is very impressive. I didn't mention yestesterday that we went through about 20 tunnels through mountain ranges up to 1 km long; and today we more of that elevated highway with fantastic views on either side. For the Bega Valley readers, imagine a 2 lane road that tackles Brown Mountain by leaping into space at Pipers Lookout and descends slowly in nice arcs to land on Little Brown Mountain and then goes through the air to the range north of Pollacks Flat Road and joins the existing road at Numbugga. That's how they would tackle Brown Mountain here! The cost must have been huge. Though maintenence must be a problem because some of the road surfaces need urgent attention.

photo taken from about 1000 m elevation

Near Potenza we left the highway and went up into the mountains on a minor road through deciduous forests and cork oak plantations and then down through wheat and hay country to the town of Matera.

The tourist information centre in Matera found us a B&B  on the edge of the old part of town. We have a huge room with a kitchen and dining table and the bike is parked just outside the door in the narrow street.

We thought that with it being a tourist town the restaurants would be a rip off but my lunch of salmon and spinach fettucine with a basket of bread and a 1/4 litre carafe of the local red wine , plus a plate of homemade peanut brittle, cost the equivalent of just $12.50 and tasted superb.

The old part of Matera is called Sassi meaning "stones" because the original houses were carved out of the limestone rock. The first cave houses date back to the 8th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries more conventional one and two storey buildings were constructed on the hill among and above the caves using limestone blocks.

We visited one of the old cave houses which had one room for the family and at the back of it a room for the mule and another for the pig and the chooks. The smell must have been terrible.

Note the high bed which was elevated above the floor as high as possible to get away from the filth. Their infant mortality rate was 50% so the government began a rehousing programme in the 1950's. This house was vacated in 1956. Now the area is a major tourist destination and Mel Gibson used it as the location for his movie about Christ.

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