Hidden treasures: Matera, European capital of culture

matera europe culture

When thinking about Italy as a land of ancient history, many will instantly think of the Roman Empire and of buildings that have stood for over 3000 years. And while that is certainly impressive, it is worth knowing that the city of Matera is over 9000 years old, which makes it one of the most ancient continuously inhabited settlements on earth, together with Aleppo and Jericho. Matera has also been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Mostly famous for its unique “Sassi”, the caves in which part of the population has lived well into the XX Century, Matera has much more to offer to domestic and international tourists and its tenure as European Capital of Culture is the perfect opportunity to prove it.

A rich past, a bright future

Matera’s history is unique and inextricably tied to its geography. Whereas time and nature have inevitably worn down most buildings, damaging or destroying entire cities, churches and monuments, Matera’s architecture has been literally carved into the side of the mountain for millennia. This means, for instance, that the 150 or so “Sassi” that have been devoted to religious practice since the XII Century are still perfectly preserved, whereas most churches from the same time period have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. But there’s more to Matera than its peculiar conformation: historically, the city has been incredibly active, with its cultural elites playing a crucial role in Italy’s Risorgimento (the period of unrest that resulted in the unification of Italy in the late XIX Century). Matera’s ancient and peculiar beauty has also inspired artists and directors over the years, from Pier Paolo Pasolini to Mel Gibson. Nowadays Matera is responsible for over 70% of Basilicata’s tourism and is generally richer than the average southern Italian city. This is due to its prosperous industrial tradition, as well as the world-famous Aglianico, a black grape that produces full-bodied wines, rich in flavour and with excellent aging potential.

Growing through culture

The local population has welcomed Matera’s newly acquired titled of European Capital of Culture with great enthusiasm and a series of events have been organised to celebrate the occasion. For a few years now, Matera has been attracting artists of all descriptions and creating a positive environment, nurturing creativity and providing spaces for visual artists, performers and musicians to grow and express themselves. This is how Matera got selected as the Italian candidate for the title, over cities like Venice or Syracuse: by stressing that the process of culture is more important than the contents of one specific culture. The idea of upholding culture and valuing it as an instrument of collective growth, in this case, is more significant than the existence, in a certain place, of important works of art, universities or museums. Matera’s approach to culture is inspired by an idea of sharing and mutual support. As a result, its popularity has snowballed, as important international media outlets such as the New York Times started writing about it, thus inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs to choose it for their projects.

Incentive travel to Matera

If you want your 2019 incentives to be unique and to focus on art and culture, we recommend you choose Matera as your next destination. Make sure you check out its rich calendar and pick a few events for your team to attend, but also leave at least a couple of days off for your team to experience the city at its fullest, exploring its unique landscape and sampling the local cuisine with a fine glass of Aglianico del Vulture.

Would you like to plan your next incentive travel? We can help you!
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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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