John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Wednesday 21 September 2016

[Tuesday 20 September 2016]

Apulia, Lecce and Vieste - Undiscovered Italy
Hilton Garden Inn, Lecce
Hilton Garden Inn, Matera


After breakfast we travel to Matera, a remarkable ancient town thought to be one of the first inhabited places in Italy, where we will have a guided tour.

In the afternoon you will be taken to the four-star Hilton Garden Inn in Matera. You will stay for the next two nights on a half board basis.

The address of the hotel is:
Hotel Hilton Garden Inn, Via Germania, Borgo Venusio, 75100 Matera MA, Italy
Telephone number: 0039 0835 215111
[i] The original information on the website was:
During our drive this morning, the view to the horizon is a carpet of olive trees studded with the occasional white-washed village underlining Apulia’s historic connections with Greece and North Africa. Arriving in Matera where we have a guided tour of this remarkable ancient town thought to be one of the first inhabited places in Italy. Originating as a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, astonishingly, even today people live in the same cave houses that their ancestors probably occupied thousands of years ago. An entire town is here, with churches, shops, workshops, all hewn from rock. Is there anywhere else where you can walk along a street which is the roof of the house below?
We stay two nights with breakfast and dinner at the nearby four-star Hilton Garden Inn Matera. This contemporary hotel is set in landscaped gardens with a lovely pool benefiting from panoramic views over the rolling countryside. All in all a very tranquil and relaxing setting. Outdoor pools generally open for use June–Sept., weather permitting.

Janet had set the alarm-clock for 6.30am, but I woke up about an hour before that, hearing the ominous high-pitched buzz in the left ear of a mosquito.
[ii] I don’t think I went to sleep again after that. Janet was up at 6.45am. After I was showered and dressed we went down the stairs for breakfast, then after returning to the room went down with the suitcases in one of the lifts. I handed over the key-cards at reception, then we wheeled the suitcases out to where Franco was loading them all into the coach. I stayed with ours till Franco took them, while Janet went aboard to locate our seats. Every day Paola would place the little card with “Mr. & Mrs. Cooper” written on it on a different seat. She did the same, obviously, with everybody’s; that way, everyone got a share of forward and rearward, left and right seats. Today, in fact, we got the front seat on the right side, i.e. just behind the entrance door and above and behind Paola’s fold-down seat. Our journey took us through Taranto, skirting by the lagoon of Mare Piccolo to our left with a glimpse of the Ionian Sea beyond. From being little I’d been intrigued with “Taranto”, confusing it at that time with “Toronto”. People were asking me how I was; indeed, there was remarkably little inflammation of the elbow, and the blood-staining on the pad of the dressing was quite modest (compared with the way the dressings from the pharmacy quickly got sodden). The tenderness of the left hip was more noticeable, especially whenever I sat down and got up. We stopped at a highway service station for 45 minutes, to get a drink and use the toilets. Janet had a diet cola and I a caffè americano. There was a space near the coffee counter with small elevated table-tops where one could stand and drink coffee. Janet meanwhile was queuing for the “donne”. I then went outside and joined some of our party seated at a table. One was the guy who’d helped me yesterday. We all re-boarded the coach at the specified time, and resumed our way. Although the tour was labelled “Apulia…”, in fact Matera is in the adjacent region of Basilicata. On the way, and afterwards, there was repeated mention of “sassi”, a word we hadn’t till then heard, and it was only slowly that it dawned on us that the “sassi” were the ancient cave-houses we were going to visit. On entering Matera, we were dropped off as close to the historic centre as was allowed for coaches, and Paola led us in procession across, then to the right along, Via Lucana, then left along Via Emanuele Duni to its end in Piazza Giovanni Pascoli. Outside the Palazzo Lanfranchi, so called because it was built 1668–1672 at the request of Archbishop Vincenzo Lanfranchi as a diocesan seminary, but now housing the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata, we were given free time for lunch and/or shopping, with the arrangement to meet back there at 2pm.

[ii] Indeed, for a number of days there was a swelling on the left cheek near the ear, with a small amount of serumal leakage from its centre. There was also a spot on the top of my head that I attributed to a mosquito bite.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 12:46:06
Palazzo Lanfranchi

We looked for somewhere for me to have lunch. We walked northwards along Via Domenico Ridola, past a couple of establishments which didn’t appeal, turned left near the end, left again into Via Lucana, finally settling on a restaurant we’d passed earlier in Via Emanuele Duni on our way to the rendezvous point: “Osteria la Pignata”. The restaurant occupied a couple of parallel long rooms with barrel-vaulted ceilings and a doorway between them. The restaurant yesterday evening had been similarly vaulted, but there’d been groining where rooms led off at right angles. The waiter was a young man, but he had a beard and a waxed handlebar moustache. Janet had a couple of Coke Zero, and I had ½ℓ of house red wine. I decided to have a “Pizza Materana”, thinking it would be a kind of “signature” pizza. It was topped with mozzarella, fennel, dried peppers, local sausage, and dark-green leaves which we took to be cavolo nero.[iii] It lacked the usual smear of tomato under the cheese that one expects on a pizza.

[iii] On reflection, we think they were perhaps turnip greens. There was one such example on the daily menu we’d been given, and we saw a number of examples on other menus in restaurants.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 13:11:44
Osteria la Pignata

The bill came to €17.00, reasonable even with €3 coperti: the pizza was €6.50, the wine €3.50, and the Coke Zero €2 each. As we were about to leave, there was a sudden heavy downpour, and we sheltered under the restaurant’s awning till, in order to avoid being late, we had to go. The rain had eased off somewhat when we dashed to the Palazzo Lanfranchi. In there, we were introduced to our guide Emilia. She spoke to us about the “sassi”, habitations, some from prehistoric times, dug into the calcareous rock on the slope of the ravine of the river known as “la Gravina”. Because the “sassi” are on multiple levels, streets sometimes are situated on top of other houses. It was an area of abject poverty; indeed much of the south of Italy was despised and neglected by the north. That was a theme in the 1945 book Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi. I’d never heard of this; some of our party were familiar, though, with a 1979 film adaptation. Living conditions were unhealthy: people lived with their animals, donkey, pigs, chickens, etc. (Having your bed next to the donkey would keep you warm in winter.) Malaria was rife. In the 1950s the government, embarrassed by the “north–south divide”, imposed forced relocation of most of the “Sassi”-dwellers to areas of the developing modern city. They suffered major culture-shock and great shame, for they were unaware that people in general did not live with their animals.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:10:00
Emilia, our guide

There were occasional showers as we proceeded to the side of the steep gorge, on the east side of the town, in which the “sassi” had been excavated, and visited one example.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:23:50
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:24:02
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:24:12
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:24:26
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:24:46
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:25:34
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:26:10
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:31:20
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:32:04
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:33:06
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:34:02
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:35:58
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:36:08
Seen en route to the “sassi”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:37:30
Seen en route to the “sassi”

The “sasso”, restored, e.g. with furniture and a model of a donkey, museum-fashion, wasn’t what I expected, though. I’d gained the impression of a single small space where a large family was huddled together with livestock, but this “sasso” was multi-levelled, multi-chambered, and spacious. I couldn’t think why there would have to be forced relocation from such a place as this. We were advised not to venture to the lower level because of the uneven steps down, but many of us, including me, risked it.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:39:12
Entering the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:39:52
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:40:24
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:40:24 (detail)
Members of our party

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:41:04
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:41:32
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:41:42
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:42:34
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:42:52
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:45:42
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:46:26
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:47:10
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:47:50
Inside the “sasso”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:48:26
Inside the “sasso”

Then we went a little north of that to the “rupestrian[iv] church” of Santa Lucia alle Malve.[v] Photography wasn’t allowed inside, but as we were leaving I bought a set of postcards that were on sale there. The remains of an image of its former dedicatee Saint Agatha could be seen on what had once been an iconostasis. There was an example of something I’d not seen (or noticed) before: a “Nursing Madonna” (Γαλακτοτροφούσα in Greek) — of impossible anatomy! The church was later dedicated to Saint Lucy. After the convent to which the church was annexed was transferred elsewhere in the 16th century, the three-nave church became a dwelling, and alterations were made to the layout somewhat, e.g. the addition of a kitchen.

[iv] i.e. made of rock
[v] mallows

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:50:06
View southeast along the ravine of “la Gravina”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:50:20
View southeast: “la Gravina”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:50:44
View northeast: “la Gravina”

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:50:58
View, northwards, of Matera

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:55:00
Heading northwards

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:58:12
“Chiesi Rupestri
“Rupestrian Churches
Note the low-relief cup with eyes above the door.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 14:59:32
Façade of the “Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

Click on the images to enlarge.

“Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

“Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

“Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

“Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

“Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

“Rupestrian Church, Santa Lucia alle Malve”

St. Agatha, the original dedicatee

St. Lucy, the later dedicatee, holding a cup with eyes in it

Γαλακτοτροφούσα (“milk-feeder”)

Γαλακτοτροφούσα (detail)

St. Michael the Archangel

Coronation of the Virgin and Saints

St. Benedict

St. John the Baptist

St. Gregory

St. Vitus

St. Vitus (detail)

A bishop

Many churches have people buried under their floors and in the walls; this one, perhaps, was unique in having people buried above the ceiling! On leaving the church, we went up and visited this necropolis—

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:26:32
Necropolis above the church

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:27:58
Views from the necropolis: more or less southwards

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:28:26
Views from the necropolis: more or less northwards

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:28:36
Views from the necropolis: just to the left of “15:28:26”

—before heading back to Palazzo Lanfranchi. On the way it rained again quite heavily, so we took shelter within for about 20 minutes till the rain abated.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:42:24
Palazzo Lanfranchi: strange exhibit of masks atop haphazardly stacked crates

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:42:56
Palazzo Lanfranchi

Wednesday 21 September 2016 — 15:43:40
Palazzo Lanfranchi

The plan had been to allow further free time to explore the town, e.g. to visit the Cathedral, but that was abandoned in favour of returning to the coach and going to the hotel. This was situated ca.5 miles north of the town on the outskirts of a new village development. Again there was no check-in to be undergone; Paola just handed out card wallets containing the room key.

“La Tua Chiave” (“Your Key”)
You might be able to “open doors you never knew existed”, but it would have helped to be able to open the door the existence of which I did know!
“Exploring the world” might be “easier with Hilton HHonors”, but opening the bloody door was well-nigh impossible!

There were three elevators up, so we didn’t have to wait long. They had transparent sides, or perhaps just the rear was. As before the key was “credit card”-style with a chip — only this time we had the greatest difficulty getting the bloody thing to work. I lay down on the bed and dozed off for an hour or so. Re-enabled Wi-Fi on the computer, because there wasn’t a wired connection in the room, as there had been at the first hotel. Checked e-mail accounts (18:22).… Transferred 44 photos from my camera to the WD Elements HDD (19:00–19:02). Viewed them in Windows Photo Viewer, rotating 9 that needed it (19:05–19:08). Just before 7.30pm we went down for dinner. Our party was seated in a separate dining room. We both felt weary, but recovered somewhat in the company in which we found ourselves. We were back in the room ca.9.30pm (I lost my temper with the bloody door! We did get in after multiple attempts), and were in bed ca.10.15pm.

[Thursday 22 September 2016]

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