Day 11: Matera
Next stop is at the new art gallery in the center run by Sgr. Enrico Fillipucci, the dealer from whom we bought our Carlo Levi. He does remember us and tells us that he really didn’t expect to ever see us again. We have a nice conversation about the art business in Italy and some of his projects and before we leave, he shows us the web page of the large family villa located near Spoleto that they have developed as a rental property.
We continue our stroll around town–we actually meet three Italian tour groups visiting Matera–and stop in front of the Duomo. Unfortunately, there is scaffolding along one entire side of the building and the doors are shut tight…..”in restauro”. We will have to wait for our next visit to see the inside.
The food market is next…..it is just up the street from the main piazza and we are pleasantly surprised to see that there are many stalls and crowds of people doing their shopping.
We buy some local oranges (from near Policoro on the coast) and look for a bar in the sun to have a drink and write our postcards. The bars on the main square are both in the shade but we see a sign for a bar with a “vista panoramica” located on the roof of the movie theater. We take the elevator up and see tables set in a sunny courtyard with big open arches and views over the square and the “sassi”. (The crane in the picture is working on the “in restauro” duomo.)
We enjoy our freshly squeezed orange and lemon juices (spremuta), write our postcards and relax in the warm sunshine. By now it is almost 1 pm and it is too late to get into the art museum so we stop at a fancy food shop for some salumi, a “forno” for some bread and a “patisseria” for some cookies and take our food back to the hotel for a picnic lunch.
After lunch, I set out to explore the “sassi” and walk all the way through both ravines, stopping to view the deep gorge of the Gravina River and climb up through the more deserted and still undeveloped section at the other end of town.
In the late afternoon, we get in the car and set out for ride in the countryside. We drive through some lovely farmland set in the rolling hills outside Matera and pass an immense quarry where they taking up huge pieces of “tufa” for building. We drive up to the small but pretty hill town–Montescaglioso–and make a quick circuit of the attractive “centro storico” stopping for a few pictures of the main square and the view from the top.
Taking a different route back to Matera, we somehow get on a road that features one of those breathtaking endless vistas over the hills with numerous mountain ridges stretching out in the distance….unfortunately, it is a bit too dark to get a picture.
We park outside the art museum which is also the headquarters of the Centro Carlo Levi and, at this hour (6 pm) we are the only visitors. The museum is in the very striking Palazzo Lafranchini and has an interesting collection of modern paintings of local artists, a very nice selection of Renaissance art from the area as well as three rooms of Carlo Levi works. We think that the space is terrific and some of the works are quite appealing….especially some paper mache sculptures from the 16th century and some very good altarpieces from churches around Basilicata. We are very happy to see the Levi collection–this museum had been closed seven years ago–and we admire the very large politically themed mural that he did in the 60s called “Lucania ‘61″
We also get a tour of the current exhibition of modern sculpture on the top floor gallery and, as a special treat, the museum staff member who is escorting us takes us out on the roof top for a view of Matera at dusk.
Dinner is at a more upscale and, on Friday night, busy restaurant called Le Botteghe. The service is quite professional although as the place gets more crowded, the pace of the meal slows down considerably.
Diana enjoys her view of the cook who handles the open grill. The food is pretty good–a pasta dish with ceci in a broth that Diana enjoys very much and a less successful mixed grill. The whole potato is “baked” on a skewer over the open coals which is unusual and tasty. I stick with my Basilicata regimen–orecchiette with sausage and excellent grilled sausages. I ask for the panna cotta for dessert and it is pretty good although it takes way too long to arrive.
It is a nice stroll back to the hotel. Tomorrow we leave Matera for Le Marche.