24 hours in Matera – i Sassi and some great food
Yet nothing stops me from visiting something I had been wanting to visit for years so in we went, on a 3 hours picturesque drive through the Cilento National Park and the Appennino Lucano, until we reached the Ionian coast and then Matera. The heat was stifling, 2012 being one of the hottest summers on record. We drove through Montescaglioso where my granny was born in 1907, without finding the romanesque Abbey I wanted to visit, and made it to Matera just on time for lunch.
The Matera old town is divided in two areas, both called Sassi (‘stones’). And true enough, the houses here are made in stone, carved into the side of the hill where the town was built. Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano occupy the two hillsides, Sasso Caveoso being historically the poorer of the two where the dwellings were completely carved into the rock. Sasso Barisano was more ‘upmarket’ and here houses are partly built in the rocks and partly build up. We enjoyed a later afternoon tour with a local guide which was very useful to understand the history of the city and its peculiarity. Had I not had a screwed up knee, I would have loved to walk around at night, because the place is incredibly fascinating, with the stone houses everywhere. A lot of these, since the area was nominated Unesco World Heritage Site, have been refurbished to house hotels, BBs, shops and restaurants. Only a small number which were originally privately owned are now again private dwellings with finally all mod cons and the basics such as running water.
We ordered a few small plates such as bruschetta with spicy peppers, salad with the most amazing Moliterno pecorino I have ever had, local ham and ice cold white wine.
Panecotto is a local project which aims to use locally sourced ingredients, promote artisan crafts and food producers and employ disadvantaged people. Judging from our experience, they have hit the mark.
Despite some negative reviews online, we had a great meal. The service was, like at Panecotto, very professional, friendly and efficient. The menu is extensive, and the portions absolutely huge, this being the only criticism of the night! My starter of Stracciata was fantastic, and an enormous amount. So fresh! Puglia is in fact a stone’s throw away. Freshly made pasta dishes were delicious, one with smoked cheese and fresh tomato sauce, the other being ravioli with local ricotta.
Our mains were all meat based.. and so much of it! Mixed grill, lamb chops with brandy sauce, fillet tagliata and grilled pork chops, with a side of freshly cut crisps that was amongst the best I have ever had in a restaurant. We ended the meal tasting a white ‘tartufo’ ice cream from nearby Pizzo Calabro. It was my first taste of this well known ice cream and I hope it wont be my last, it was fantastic. We enjoyed two bottles of wine including a very reasonably priced Preliminare.