Visiting Matera, Basilicata, and staying at Gradelle B&B in the Sassi Caveoso no-car area, was the highlight of our 3-week Italy trip.
We decided on Matera after seeing pictures that looked like Jerusalem from 2000 years ago. No surprise to later learn that this was where Mel Gibson shot "The Passion of Christ". No one we talked with in Japan had ever heard of Matera, although most people have heard of the other UNESCO World Heritage site Alberobello in nearby Puglia.
Sassi started off as prehistoric cave dwellings. Sassi Barisano, on the northern side of modern Matera town, has artsy, renovated cafes, restaurants and hotels. Meanwhile Sassi Caveoso, on the southern side of modern Matera town is more rustic, undisturbed and less touristy. Additionally, Gradelle Pennino B&B in Sassi Caveoso had majestic views of the most prominent natural formation in Matera: the natural rock church of Our Lady of Idris.
We were met at the train station by Paola, her brother Giuseppe, and their father Thomas. Our English/Italian exchange was not perfect but we felt the good will emanating from the Barbaro family. The next day for breakfast Paola brought us beautiful chocolate cake she baked just for us, as well as delicious artigiano focaccia in the regional (Lucana) style. It was the best cake/focaccia we had in Italy! We brought up the food to the balcony and enjoyed the perfect sunny weather and the view of Our Lady of Idriss and the Rupestrian caves on the other side of the gorge. What a great way to start our Italy vacation!
We had the whole downstairs unit (4-6 people) ourselves (2 people): bedroom with double bed, bunk bed in the main activity room, big sofa, TV, kitchen, shower. We also had 24 hour access to the 2 rooftop balconies! The Barbaro's are currently renovating a second unit that would make it possible for a family of up to 8-9 people to stay together!
The B&B is in a no-car zone, about 100 steps downhill from Piazza Sedile where the Conservatory and St Francis Church are located. East of Piazza Sedile, towards the Youth Hostel, are probably the best views of Matera!
Also in the piazza is a very good Alimentari (grocery) where we bought toothpaste, frizzante water, Matera Primitivo wine (recommended!), mortadella and mozzarella buffala. Very convenient for our picnic across the gorge at the natural park of stone hewn churches (parco della chiese rupestre)! For mountain bikers out there, talk with Thomas about biking around basilicata: Thomas is a champion mountain biker and can introduce you to the folks at Ferula Viaggio, which rents out mountain bikes and itineraries.
The only minus with Gradelle Pennino is that there is currently no wifi. We solved this by buying a Telefonica Italia Mobile (TIM) SIM card that doubled as a hotspot as well. Also, the 100 steps between Piazza Sedile to the B&B might be a challenge for some.
We promised to help with translating more Gradelle Pennino info into Japanese so hopefully more Japanese tourists come to enjoy the beauty of Matera and the welcome of the Barbaro family!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Currently the space offered to the guests (especially suitable for couples or groups of 6 people) is divided into two levels - on the ground floor, with an entrance from Gradelle Pennino 1, master bedroom, a sun-soaked room with double windows overlooking the courtyard and an arch made of limestone. Bedroom with bunk bed and privacy screen made of wrought iron and cloth. Relaxation room with double sofa bed, TV with DVD player and Home Theatre System (CDs of different types of music and movies are available for the guests), a large fireplace (wood/charcoal upon request). Small living room equipped with fridge and table, with access to the external courtyard with gate suitable for bike parking, etc. Private bathroom for guests - On the top floor with entrance from via Pennino 3, panoramic terrace available for breakfast, sunbathing and various activities. ... more less