Vacation in a Cave ~ #whatif prompt 27.9.18

Today’s prompt over at Karen’s “What if we all cared?” is “Vacation in a Cave

I directly thought about an area in the South of Italy of which I have heard about on a TV program some months or even years back. It was about architecture and told about a couple who had restored a house in a cave. It was hard work but they made such a beautiful home of it that I thought I might get over my dislike of Italien politics and give it another visit.

Sassi di Matera from the Belvedere Piazzetta Pascoli

I’ve been to the north of Italy many moons ago with school. My main subject for my Abitur which are A-levels to my British readers for all others I do not know. Sorry. We were supposed to go to the south to Naples I think but we did not have enough money so we ended up in San Remo at the French border close to Nice and Monaco. There is a music festival that takes place since 1951 which gave the idea to the Eurovision Song Contest but I did not know that then. All I knew was that I did not like coffee but loved to bath in the sea. We went to Monaco. Yes, I have been there but I can only remember the Aquarium and the Nautilus I’ve seen there. No casino or car race.

Oh dear, I think I got a little distracted. What I really wanted to write about is the Sassi. An ancient Italian area in Puglia I think that is inhabited since about 9000 years ago. They built in caves. and they lived there until the 1960’s when the then government decided the poor people needed some electricity and running water. That was probably too expensive to build in the caves so they just resettled the whole lot closer to their fields. That happened in an Italian city on a hilltop called Matera di Sassi.

I find it fascinating how the opinion of these dwellings changed. Up until the 1800’s no one was particularly bothered. People lived there since ancient times and in fact it is the only place that can pride itself to have been inhabited since 7000 BC. That’s something. But I got the information from Wikipedia so I am not sure if it is true.

Around 1850 suddenly the good people of Italy or more the government of Italy seemed to think it was not worthy of a modern Italy to have people living in caves. They got a rather bad rep which was understandable thinking of the bad sanitation and rampant malaria. As far as I gather no one did much about it though besides writing travel guides which told you not to go there. Mussolini’s fascists seemed to make an effort but it led nowhere.

"sassi di matera"

Until the 1960’s but I covered the resettlement already. I need to research if the resettled people were happy or not about having new cottages and the farm animals in barns which they could see from their bedrooms. The good people from the government wanted to make sure it all felt like their previous cave homes where animals and people lived under one roof. They also offered communal ovens like in the caves and communal areas to meet up. However, it looks like they did not manage to create them in a way that people could flow in naturally so they were not a proper hit. In the end, everybody got disillusioned and they started building apartment blocks which probably was cheaper.

Moving forward to the 1980’s and suddenly artisans moved in who created whistles. Maybe they did not move in then. Maybe they were squatters who needed an income and someone invented the whistles. Have I mentioned they look like cockerels? Well, all ended up with expensive restaurants and tourism which means you can now have a vacation in a cave.

I have seen some of those houses and my goodness did they renovate them! It must have been quite difficult to do so but it certainly is worth going there. I might one day. Who knows….

Find out more about Sassi di Matera here:

Sassi di Matera on Wikipedia

Sassi di Matera at the UNESCO

Sassi di Matera on The New Yorker

San Remo Festival on Wikipedia