Matera´s setting on top of a gorge is impressive. Painting the horizon with the soft colour of limestone, at first glance it looks like a giant beehive carved in stone somewhere in the stone ages. Well, actually it was carved back then, since this place is known to be as one of the first human settlements in Italy.
It has two large cave dwellings and strolling through its alleys is a good exercise, since they go up and down and up and down. As a reward for your efforts you can get an ice cream at I Vizi degli Angeli, which counts for me as one of the best ice creams I have ever had. Besides, the town has plentiful of cute corners, so the stroll is worth in any case.
This year it is also the European Capital of Culture and it´s hosting a great Dalí sculpture exhibition. A handful of his sculptures are spread across town, but what is truly impressive is the exhibition per se, which is located in one of the rupestrian churches in town, breathtaking.
The owner of the campsite where we are staying drives us to a great view point on the other side of the gorge, so that we can see the evening lights settling over the city. Beautiful.
Treading along the ancient streets of Paestum is like leaving our footprints in a page of history. The three Greek Doric temples are some 27 centuries old and still stand proud and impressive, beating gravity, defeating time.
The whole site is quite charming, and even more so in the evening, when we attend a ballet festival, mixing classic and modern styles, which is pure enjoyment.
My confession to make is that I have never been so scared in any other part of this road trip, like I was on the Amalfi coast. The roads are so narrow, so windy, so steep, but so, so, so, that at times it seemed impossible to be able to get through. We managed though and made it to a tiny camping in the tiny town of San Lazzaro, some 600 meters vertically above the see. The owner is very friendly and gives us all the information we need to embark on a hike on the mountains along the coast.
It is called The Path of the Gods, surely because it has the most impressive views of the coast. We walked the full length of it, which seems to be just above 9 kilometres. It has ups and downs, but probably the steepest part are the 1500 stairs that lead down to Positano.
Positano is one of the ´vertical towns´ in the Amalfi coast and to navigate the steep streets is hard work after the hike. It´s cute but a bit too touristy for our taste. Good is that from there we take a boat to Amalfi, which has a nice cathedral, and there we struggle our way into a bus that, after another impossibly curvy ride, will take us back up to San Lazzaro.
We continue our journey in the time machine walking through the streets of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. The life in the city was abruptly interrupted some 2000 years ago by the eruption of mount Vesuvius, which meant that the city and its inhabitants got suddenly buried in 4 to 6 meters of ash and other volcanic materials. This giant volcanic scar made it possible that the city has been extremely well preserved and today one can walk through the streets and have a very good idea on how the life was back then.
You can still go into some of the houses and admired colourful frescoes which are extremely well preserved, you can tread over amazing mosaics that are 2000 years old, enter an old brothel and observe the stone beds while glancing over the ´menu of services´ which can still be seen painted on the wall. You can see the street food counters and read the price of the wine.
Not dissimilar is the history of the Herculaneum, even if it seems that the pyroclastic materials carbonised and that even allowed for the conservation of organic matter, like wood or food and even the human remains of some of the people that could not run away are quite well preserved.