From Matera with love

EasyJet Traveller - Ottobre 2021

From Matera with love - we explore the Bond - approved Italian city on a cultural ascent
Above ground Matera is a charming hilltop town. Below ground it holds a secret history. We follow in the footsteps of the world’s most famous spy an gets under the surface of the most intriguing city of southern Italy.

[...] Every souvenir here has a story. There are the chicken-shaped cucù whistles, which have been carved in the region to ward off evil spirits since 400BC. Wooden bread stamps, now curios for visiting foodies, were once a crucial tool for distinguishing each family’s loaf in the giant communal ovens of the Sassi.

Which leads us to Il Forno di Gennaro, an acclaimed bakery run for generations by the Perrone family, where the air is sweetly yeasted and glossy wheels of stuffed focaccia call to us from behind the counter. The bakers begin at midnight, working seven days a week to produce the city’s iconic loaves. Semolina gives the moist crumb its Midas hue, while customers can choose between wood-fired or electric ovens, and several degrees of chewy crust.

But it’s the shape that really sets Materan bread apart. A great stegosaurus hump of a loaf; gnarled, golden, cut into three rocky peaks. These represent the Holy Trinity, but they could easily be a tribute to the gnarled, golden landscape of the old town itself: Sasso Barisano to the north, Sassi Caveoso to the south, and Civitas hill rising majestically between them, crowned by its Romanesque cathedral.

“When people are very poor they become religious and superstitious, because they don’t have anything else to cling to,” says translator Claudio Latorre, who grew up a few doors away. “At one time, bread and religion were all Matera had.”

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