Welcome home

We have been home for just over a week and things are returning to normal. No longer is 3am our preferred waking time and we can now stay up well past 8 at night.

Spring is definitely in the air – not the 30 degree temperatures we have become used to, but certainly temperatures warmer than those we left behind at the start of August.

The grape vine that runs the length of our boundary fence is showing signs of life with green shoots growing on a daily basis.

Poppie and Bella were pleased to see us although Vicki did a great job of pampering them in our absence. They are both asleep on the floor beside the desk as I write, recovering from a day barking at the front gate.

The holiday memories are still close and there are stories to tell.

 

 

It’s odd what you can find in Italy sometimes

When visiting Matera we discovered that it was a town obsessed with beer – craft beer to be precise. Every bar and restaurant had a range of craft beers which were proudly displayed on its menu.

The task of finding a simple Peroni or a Nastro Azzurro at our hotel was impossible – but they could supply three types of wheat beer and a gaggle of obscure IPAs.

One beer that we were surprised to find was “New Zealand” IPA from Motueka. Who would have thought you could find a kiwi beer in, of all places, Matera. And of course, once we spotted it, we had to try it.

That night we drank Matera’s entire supply of New Zealand IPA dry – both bottles. So, gentle travellers, if you are looking for a taste of home in Matera – you’re too late. Cheers.

We are in Matera

Saturday we picked up a rental car in Sorrento and drove the three and a half hours to Matera – south and east of Napoli and towards the heel of Italy’s boot.

Matera known for its cave houses called “sassi”. The sassi are carved into the cliffs of a rocky ravine created by what was once a big river but is now a small stream. These cave dwellings are believed to be among the first human settlements in Italy dating back to the Paleolithic era, some 9,000 years ago.

Since then, until as recently as the 1950s, the caves were continuously inhabited.

Until the late 20th century, the Matera region was one of the poorest in Italy. There was no electricity or running water or sewage disposal facility. The extreme poverty of these people during Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule was exposed in the book “Christ stopped at Eboli” by an Italian doctor Carlo Levi.

After the Second World War, the new government tried to move the city’s cave residents into modern dwellings but many people were reluctant to move. Eventually, the government had to forcibly relocate the inhabitants to the new town on top of the cliff.

Matera’s fortune changed after 1993 when UNESCO declared Matera’s sassi and cave churches a world heritage site, bringing a wave of curious tourists. Since then, many of Matera’s crumbling caves has been restored and transformed into homes, stylish hotels and restaurants.

Matera surprised us. It is a tourist mecca, bustling now in late August, but almost all the visitors are Italian. We have seen one other English speaking couple in two days – who happen to be staying at the same hotel as us. All the menus and signs are exclusively in Italian and the majority of the locals speak little English, if any. This is truly a taste of authentic Italy.

We are spoilt staying at The Palazzo Gattini Hotel in the Piazza Duomo. It is built in an old residence which has been extensively renovated and modernised – all within the constraints of the original building as there are strict laws about making changes to significant buildings in the town.

Our room has a small outdoor pool which is has seen much use of the last few days as the temperature is currently hovering around 30 to 33 degrees during the day.

The town comes alive in the evening – after siesta and when the temperature drops. Locals come out for dinner and deserted streets and filled by outdoor bars and restaurants – and the inevitable flow of locals out for an evening stroll.

Note: Thanks to amusingplanet.com for some of the information contained in this post.

 

 

All Blacks in Italy

Last Saturday morning life at the villa ground to a halt as we watched the All Blacks play Australia in the first Bledisloe Cup rugby match.

We found the broadcast on Sky Italia with the only downside being a choice of Italian or Australian commentary. Sadly no Justin Marshall for us, just Aussie commentators who became more depressed as the first half developed. Even they were struggling to find anything good to say about their local team until after the 50 minute mark. In the end of the game the best they could do was talk up the second half which, apparently, the Australian team won.

Aussies, no surprises there.

Positano festival night

One of the reasons we came to Positano in mid August is because of the festival of Ferragosto on August 15. It is a public holiday and is celebrated in Positano by, among other things, fireworks at midnight.

We attended the festival dinner on the terrace at Eden Roc and had a perfect position to view the fireworks. The bay was full of boats of all sizes, all there to view the spectacular display.

After the display there were the usual traffic problems as people tried to leave and go home – but unlike the traffic jams we experience at home after events, this was more of a “Vespa jam”.

 

Rush hour in Positano

One thing we have noticed this visit is that Positano is busy. Much busier than we remember – even in the middle of August during festival week – which is peak season.

Everywhere there are people, people and more people.

Last week when we went to restock our groceries we ran into this midday crush of people trying to negotiate the narrow pathway to the beach.

Our advice – visit in late August and September. The weather is still warm and settled but the number of visitors drops quite dramatically as August comes to an end. Even now – 23 August – the village feels calmer, emptier and more inviting.

 

Cloud puppy

Staring at the sky the other day (we have nothing much else to do folks) Jean noticed one cloud that looked familiar. Either that or we are missing the dogs more than we realise.