I’m in Matera, an ancient town in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy. The area is full of ancient caves, where people have lived for 7000 years.

Even though Matera is arguably the oldest continuously lived in settlement in the world, predating even Rome itself with about 5000 years, the town used to be off the beaten track for a very long time. It was an area of extreme poverty and bad sanitary conditions, until the government decided to relocate the population in the 1950s.

Matera, Italy Roaming the old city.

In later years, Matera has seen an resurgence of travelers, due to footage in pop culture such as the latest James Bond movie No Time To Die, a bittersweet visit by Anthony Bourdain with Asia Argento in 2017, and more.

View of Matera, Italy A tale of stone.

Today I’ve walked along the M.C.Escher-like structures built into the very rock, clinging on to the edge of the Gravina canyon. The cave homes reminded me of the Iranian region of Meymand, where I once slept in a cave many years ago.

It’s not common for me to get lost anywhere, but here it happened all the time. Once I got used to the idea, it became surprisingly soothing.

Narrow alley in Matera, Italy Beautiful chaos.

Even though Matera is stunningly beautiful, there is a sense of melancholy in the air. The emptiness followed me as I ascended and descended worn-down stairs and dusty alleys in a confusing maze of ages past. All this under an azure blue sky. A perfect town to get lost in.


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