Tuesday, 8 September 2015

From Matera to Mottola through Metaponto

Last week I have been travelling around the south of Apulia.

I have touched few locations of Basilicata as well.

Of course, I have been with my beloved Lucia.

I started my journey from Matera, where I caught up with Raffaele, tourist guide as well as cinema location guide, as he points out in his business card.

Raffaele (pictured) has led us through some of the most extraordinary rocky churches of which Matera proudly boasts.  

“We materani are different from Apulians. Whereas Apulians have sense of business, people of Matera has always remained attached to their traditional economy of sheep-rearing”.

Things are quickly changing, though.

Tourism is whirlingly growing since Matera was appointed European capital of culture 2019.

However, foreigner tourists have begun to come over since Mel Gibson shot The Passion among the rocky sites of Sassi.

We have visited on our own the rocky church of San Nicola dei Greci, with its marvellous Byzantine frescoes.

I start talking with a Dutch tourist who, like me, seems enchanted by the Byzantine art.

“Yesterday, I have visited the museum of Metaponto (Magna Grecia). I strongly recommend you to visit it” he says.

Lucia and I leave Matera at our back, heading straight to Metaponto as suggested by our Dutch friend.

I have discovered that Metaponto was one of the most extraordinary site of Magna Grecia.

Pythagoras, the well known philosopher, sought refuge in Metaponto after having been chased by Cesiade,  tyrant of Kroton.

While visiting the museum of Metaponto, I realize how rich of artifacts this museum is.

One employee of such Museum tells us of her frustration due to the lack of consideration of National politicians for such an important museum, who currently has no archaeologists among his staff.

“Since the archaeologist De Siena has retired, this museum carries on with no archaeologist among its employees”.

This is a shame for Bel Paese, who has the highest number of UNESCO sites on worldwide basis.

After having seen the Museum, we move few hundred metres further to watch the archaeological park and the tavole palatine, wonderful examples of a prosperous Hellenistic civilisation.

The sun is fading.

It’s time to resume our voyage.

This time we drive towards Mottola, a town in the province of Taranto, famous for its rocky churches, among which there is the so-called Cappella Sistina of rocky churches: the church of St. Nicola (11th century).

The day after we have an appointment arranged at the tourist office with Maria, local tourist guide (pictured).

At 9 o’clock we are at office, waiting few more tourist who will join the crew.

The church is in the countryside.

The guide has no car, therefore, I invite her to get on my car.

“Once, I have conducted to this church a large number of Russian tourists. Then, they asked me to let them  celebrate the mass. I found their rites moving” the guide says. 

In order to reach the church of St. Nicola, we have to step down few stairs carved out from the rock.

Once the door is open, I feel shivers at my back.

The frescoes are so vivid, so well kept.

The pantocrator has a so intense sight.

His eyes with his big pupils seems capturing me.

I well understand now the comparison with the Michelangelo’s Cappella Sistina.

Those like me who adore Byzantine art painted in rocky churches, must pay great recognition to Pietro Parenzan, a speleologist who firstly have highlighted few decades ago the importance of rocky civilisation, of which such church belongs to.

I feel so fulfilled.

I have seen so much beauty today.

We have spent the night in Mottola, eating a tasty pizza in the main plaza.

However, this is just a small detail.

The next post will concern a new chapter about the Byzantine art of rocky churches of Massafra.

Peace, Love and Culture