Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Driving from Calabria to Basilicata

We are leaving Calabria today and driving to Basilicata and the town of Matera. We are staying two nights in Matera and we have a lot planned. As we left Popilia Country Resort at 10:00am it was raining a little but that didn’t last long. The sun came out and we had beautiful weather during the drive. Around noon we stopped at an Autogrill and had time to use the restroom and get something to eat for lunch. We were there for about an hour and then we continued our drive. The route we took had us driving along the coast of the Ionian Sea. It was absolutely beautiful.
Castello Federiciano
The water was turquoise and the landscape was green. The area was dotted with olive trees and wildflowers. We also passed a castle (Castello Federiciano) in the Cosenza region. I spent some of the drive time editing photos (I have taken so many photos it was good to sort through all of them). It took us somewhere around four hours to reach Matera and it was somewhere near 3:00pm.

The bus couldn’t get into town so we were dropped off about four blocks from the hotel and we had to walk the short distance to the center of town. We are staying at the Albergo Italia hotel and this is an historic building that used to be a palace and the great thing is that it is within walking distance of the historic part of town. It is now a beautiful and comfortable hotel. We got our key and checked into the room and got settled. The key is a real key not a card and it is on a large and heavy keychain. The keychain is made of brass, it is flat on the bottom and has the room number engraved there. The bottom part is round and has a rubber gasket around it and then the upper part is flat. One side has the hotel name and the other side has the room number. It was kind of cool to have a key that fit the old building instead of a modern technology card. And since the keychain was so heavy we turned it back into the desk when we left the hotel and picked it up when we returned. One thing I have to say about this trip is that all the locals think it is winter. Everyone is walking around with coats (not jackets) and the hotel rooms still have only heat on.
View of the Sassi from our hotel room.
We had to turn the heater completely off (since all that we could get was hot air) and open the windows (thankfully they did open) to allow the hot air out and the cool air in. Opening the windows was a good thing since it not only cooled the room off but gave us an unobstructed view of the Sassi. That was another great thing about this hotel – it overlooked the historic center on one side and the Sassi on the other.

Thomas and I decided to go for a walk around town so we headed down to the lobby where we met Dave and Deanne. The four of us wandered along the streets shopping and seeing the sites. We went into some old churches and a museum and we got to see the Sassi from an incredible viewpoint.
il cuccú
We stopped in a little shop that sold these pottery chickens that are whistles. They are called il cuccú and are kind of folk arty. We left Dave and Deanne at this point and went in search of something to eat. Unfortunately nothing was open (the restaurants don’t open until 7:30pm) so we ended up getting some gelato to tide us over until the restaurants opened up. We returned to our room and rested until 7:30 when we went out again and found a place to eat. We picked a place called Il Boccone del Musicusta and we shared a pizza (margharita with raw ham) and spaghetti (filega pasta and tomato sauce). It was a nice relaxing and delicious dinner. Afterwards we wandered around town and ended up getting another gelato before calling it a night and returning to our room.

Today was nice – even the four hours in the bus since the scenery was spectacular, especially the Ionian coast. Tomorrow is a much busier day – we have a walking tour of Matera and of the Sassi in the morning, then a food tasting at noon and then we plan to go out on our own and hike to the caves. Should be interesting learning about the Sassi.

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