Matera: A guide to Italy's most magical hilltop town

Oct 17, 2019 568

If you’re in need of proof that stories of renewal and hope still exist, then book a trip to Matera – an ancient southern Italian town that’s gone from decrepit squalor to Europe’s 2019 capital of culture. Matera’s story is tear-inducingly miraculous. As recently as the 50s it was branded “the shame of Italy”, after a writer called Carlo Levi was exiled by Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime to a town close to Matera in 1935.

He was appalled by what he found – a level of poverty that made Dickensian London look luxurious. Residents lived in the caves, with big families and livestock crammed into one lightless hovel. Malaria was rife. There was no electricity, plumbing nor running water. Children died young either of disease or starvation. Not even Francis Bacon could have dreamt up such misery.

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