We are going to Matera

Matera in Basilicata

In just under 2 months we head back to Italy for a holiday. This trip we were keen to visit Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot – and see what this often overlooked province offered.

In the end we will miss by a few kilometres and will be staying, instead, in Matera in the province of Basilicata. So not in the heel of the boot, more in the area between the sole and the heel.

Matera is known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City) because historically many of the dwelling were effectively caves in the hillside. It is one of the longest continuously inhabited places on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Park.

It is only recently that Matera has become a must-see for visitors to Italy and we will be staying 3 nights at Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel – breaking up a fortnight spent staying in Positano which is a two hour drive away on the coast.

Matera at night

Our holiday is completed by a week in Chianti in a beautiful villa organised by our dear friend Olga, and a few days in Rome – a chance to reintroduce ourselves to this eternal city.

We fly out of Wellington at the beginning of August. Watch the blog for holiday updates.

What a great time to fly

tuscan-sunset-crete

Tuscany in October 2011

If you are thinking of heading overseas next year – check out the early bird airfare deals that are available at the moment. We’ve just booked our flights to Italy next August and it cost $600 less than exactly the same flights in 2015.

We’ve also booked Villa Arienzo for two weeks over Positano festival time and plan to spend a week in Tuscany when we will catch up with friends.

The fourth week? We are thinking of heading to the heel of Italy to explore Apulia as we’ve never been to this part of Italy before.

 

iPhone photography

It’s a well known saying that the best camera you own is the one you have with you. More often than not these days, that will be the one in your phone.

Over the years cameras in phones have got better and better to the point where they can now do almost everything that conventional cameras can.

But there are a few exceptions. One of these is the ability to manage depth of field – to have some parts of a shot in focus and some not.

On our trip to Italy in 2014 I spent a day sightseeing around Syracuse and Ortygia with only my iPhone – a 4S. I’d actually forgotten to take my DSLR camera so the challenge was to get the best shots possible just using the phone. Overall the results were pretty good, but in a bunch of shots everything was in focus (the norm for phone cameras and not a bad thing) but the shots would have looked better if the foreground and background weren’t.

Retouching to the rescue. I used Photoshop to do the work but there are a bunch of other apps that can be used. In fact anything that can reproduce a “tilt shift” effect is ideal.

Tilt shift is a technique which makes a scene look like a miniature or model (an example is below). Not so many years ago this look could only be achieved using a special, and extremely expensive, camera lens. But with the advent of digital retouching it became much easier. It is also great for adding in depth of field to a shot where none exists.

I’ve included a couple of examples in the gallery.

San Gimignano – quintessentially Toscana

 

San GimignanoWhen we were living in Tuscany having visitors arrive was always a treat. The opportunity to show people around “our neck of the woods” was always something we looked forward too. And as an experience of the essential Tuscany, San Gimignano was always a winner.

You may have heard of this village and it’s many towers. Originally it is said that there were up to 40 towers but now only 7 or 8 remain. But even with only a few towers it is still one of the most recognisable villages in the region.

Initially we thought that San Gimignano might be “too touristy” for our friends, but everyone we took there loved it. The walk up the hill from the Porta San Giovanni to the Piazza della Cisterna was always a great introduction, with the multitude of small shops that line the street adding to the feeling that this was the quintessential hilltop village. A drink or lunch in the main piazza was a must with a leisurely stroll down to the Porta San Matteo to follow.

We always seemed to leave with something – linen for the table or fresh pasta or a simple gelato from the award winning store Gelateria di Piazza located in Piazza della Cisterna.

 

 

Lazy afternoons in Positano

Positano from Eden RocThe view from Hotel Eden Roc looking out across the bay is always worth watching. Late one afternoon, on a day the sun had been playing hide and seek, the bay took on shades of pale blue as the sky and the water merged.

We weren’t the only couple watching the view.