The European Union has chosen two cultural capitals for 2019 – Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Matera in Italy. The title is not just a formality, but brings the cities a lot of opportunities to organize a series of interesting cultural events. At the same time, the cities also benefit from economic and social opportunities – in order to organize these events, the local government will receive both national and European funds to be invested in urban projects aimed at revitalizing the city. Thus, modern infrastructure, event-hosting buildings and thousands of tourists visiting the cultural capitals will all have a positive impact on the global visibility of the two cities.
Why Matera is the capital of European culture 2019?
Matera is one of the most interesting and unique destinations in Italy. It is located in the southern region of the country, and is famous for its beautiful old caves that were used as houses. Tourists can explore these unique caves and stroll through the mesmerizing narrow streets around them.
Matera’s amazing history
Matera is one of the oldest inhabited cities on Earth, located between Calabria and Puglia. The history of this city is very exciting over time, having been conquered by the Byzantines, the Eastern Goths, the Arabs, the Greeks and the Spaniards. The city’s population has now fallen to about 600,000 and the unemployment rate is much higher than in other cities in Italy.
In Matera until the 1950s authorities said living conditions were unacceptable to the population. But since 1980, the Italian government has begun to solve the problems and living conditions of the local population, and has invested financial resources in the rehabilitation of the city, which has become a tourist attraction. With these changes people started repairing the former limestone house, and thus they began to create outstanding restaurants, bars and sophisticated hotels to welcome tourists.
The cultural capital of Matera is rich in history and is considered one of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The rock-cut dwellings served as homes in Matera until the 1950s, when the authorities declared that those living conditions uninhabitable. Since the 1980s, the Italian government, raising awareness of the problems and living conditions of the locals, has invested financial resources in the rehabilitation of Sassi, which later became an important tourist attraction. Along with these changes, the city saw a lot of development, which in turn attracted larger numbers of tourists every year. The city definitely has a unique charm, and features unique restaurants, sophisticated bars and welcoming hotels – a truly one-of-a-kind place for all travel enthusiasts.
Pilgrimage in Matera
Tourists can visit more than 150 carved rock churches, showcasing paintings done by monks in the 14th – 16th centuries. The Matera Cathedral dates back to 1270 and has a traditional 14th century Byzantine design. Other beautifully unique churches that you can visit here include San Pietro Caveosco and San Pietro Barisano.
Besides the historical richness, Matera is characterised by a spiritual and religious charm that makes the place a very special one. Pilgrimage enthusiasts will be extremely happy at the idea of a trip that will take them through the city called the “Second Bethlehem,” giving them the opportunity to explore the 150 rock-carved churches. At the same time, Matera drew the attention of many film directors; the European cultural capital of 2019 has become the ideal venue for many movies where the location takes place in Jerusalem, including the Passion of Christ and the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The gastronomy of Matera
The Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita Hotel is located in the oldest part of the Sassi neighborhood, with a unique structure consisting of 18 cave-style rooms and an old church. The Sant Angelo resort offers tourists stunning views and easy access to the beautiful surroundings of this sublime Italian city.
In terms of local gastronomy, the cultural capital Matera enjoys a special status – the first mention of the history of the traditional Italian pasta was made here. The delicious meals you can enjoy here include orecchiete con cima di rapa, tapparelle and lucane chiappute. These are all traditional Italian recipes, everyone should try out at least once in their lifetime.
You also need to try fried artichokes, vegetables and local cheese, thin crust pizzas, smoked mozzarella and white bean crostini. You will be able to enjoy all these delicacies that will help you understand Italian cuisine better at regional restaurants such as La Talpa and Ristorante Pizzeria Le Fiamme, both located on a hill overlooking Basilicata.
So don’t miss out on this opportunity and book your trip to explore the European cultural capital and its beautiful caves, churches, landscapes and delicious meals!