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27th Aug: On the road again & troglodytes

August 27, 2008

370 Km driven

Driver stress medium

68 photographs taken

Food moderate

Picture: View of Matera

The four days of Villa living above Sorrento being over it was time to cross Italy to spend the end of the week in the largely undiscovered Salento peninsular. We booked a hotel just outside near Ostuni in the Masseria Santa Lucia. I have stayed there several times before at a conference and that had introduced me to what I consider one of the most interesting areas of Italy. It does not have the pomp of the North or the west, bt it is a fascinating mix of Roman, Byzantine and Moorish influences. The landscape in the main is karst limestone, flat sweeping down the sea, populated with olive trees. I had planned the journey around a visit to the Sassi di Matera. Another first,visit for me, to one of the oldest human habitations in Europe and its resemblance to ancient Jerusalem means that it has been the film set for The Omen and The Passion of Christ, along with more serious films.

Rain interrupted the visit, and while the relief form the heat was welcome it meant that we didn’t really get a chance to walk all over the area. We got into some of the caves that our now churches. In August these also host exhibitions of sculpture, combining the ancient with the modern. Given the rain we drove to the other side of the gorge to see some of the more ancient caves, and also to get a perspective on the mass of Sassi (one of the pictures being shown above). The original troglodyte settlement coexists with 13th/14th Century architecture with decorations from the Baroque. Again a site off the beaten track so fewer tourists and more time to see things at leisure.

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