It’s a timeless spot that reminds of distant places. Long stone brickworks are spread on a wavy land covered in olive trees and all of a sudden you are on the ridge of a deep cut in the soil, a canyon leading to Matera, the magic city of stones. It overlooks one of the most famous “gravine” that feature this charming city that matches the pride of being the European capital of culture this year with a landscape that wraps visitors in a mystic dimension. The erosion has been creating these amazing Karstic formations along the centuries, they still keep important signs of the ancient times and they have been creating unique rocky villages with their cultivated terraces that have always attracted the human presence. Carlo Levi dedicated many pages of his works to this area of Italy that has recently become a tourist attraction but there’s still a lot to be told and discovered.
Caves, courtyards and staircases
Your visit in the city of Matera can start with a stop at the belvedere of Murgia Materana, an amazing terrace overlooking the old city that is standing on the top of the “gravina” that rises above the inhabited centre. You can enjoy the beauty and the details from the top of that panoramic terrace. The stones, the historical centre, the whole structure dating back to the 18th century, the courtyards, the little squares, the staircases, the museums and the churches make one of the most incredible mosaics of Italy where the history is mixed with the legends and the art is melted with an enchanting landscape. It’s a unique cultural landscape that was named a Unesco World Heritage Site where different elements belonging to different historical ages from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the Baroque up to the present time come together. It’s a jubilation of details that gather in a magic scenery featured by the caves, the churches, the vegetable gardens, the courtyards, the historical buildings, the staircases, the balconies. In a few words it’s a breathless timeless landscape overlooking the “gravina”.
Canyons and rock churches
The “Gravine” are the Italian canyons. A mix of history, nature and traditions. An area in the Southern Italy that has been inhabited between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic Age that left important witnesses, deep canyons and long streams. There are different natural environments, the rocky areas, the areas where the vegetation is more evident, the humid areas where the water flows by creating the ponds and the little lakes. The nature has also welcomed the human settlements especially in Matera where people used to live in the caves that surround the canyons’ walls that are the best featuring elements of this area of Basilicata together with the Neolithic villages, the secluded deep valleys and the rocky churches.
Pastures and shepherds
The Murgia Materana is a really peculiar land. There are the farmhouses and the pastures, the breeds and the shepherds. There are few natural resources that have been perfectly used along the centuries by cultivating the terraces and the less inaccessible valleys. Difficult lands and wild valleys feature the karstic landscape where Matera is standing out. Two different canyons shape this area. The first one surrounds Matera, it was originally formed in the area of Pantano and it ends in the municipality of Montescaglioso, it is crossed by the stream that comes from Altamura and it enters the Bradano. The second canyon is the “gravina” of Picciano which is crossed by the stream coming from Gravina di Puglia that enters the Bradano as well. The canyon surrounding Matera is a hundred meters deep, it’s less steep and more irregular than the Picciano one. They are inaccessible to people and they are featured by an amazing ecosystem.
Orchids and bats
The canyons exhibit a particular vegetation that puts together the rocky area and the humid ones. The Macedonian oaks, the holm oaks, the Aleppo pine trees, the maples trees and the downy oaks are the most spread species of trees together with the terebinth bushes, the prickly juniper, the lentisk, the sage, the garlic and the thyme. Then there are the orchids, the Indian figs, the cyclamen, the honeysuckle and the hawthorns. Among the different species of animals there are many raptors like the kestrels, the short-toed eagles, the ravens, the buzzards while you can easily see the bats at night. There are the boars, the badgers, the foxes, the hedgehogs as well as the wolves and you can also see the fire-bellied toads in the humid areas as well as the italic tree frogs, the green frogs, the whip snakes, the green lizards and the Kotschy geckos.