Matera in Basilicata Gets Hot: European Capital of Culture for 2019
“Jubilation and joy broke out in Matera when the city was selected to be one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2019, beating out fellow Italians on the short list: Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia-Assisi, Siena and Ravenna. Making the announcement in Brussels on October 17th, the European Commissioner responsible for culture congratulated Matera on its successful bid, saying that “the competition for the title in Italy was one of the strongest ever, with 21 initial contenders narrowed down to six finalists.”
The rigorous selection process meant that Matera had to submit a rich program of specific cultural events that would have a lasting impact and contribute to the long-term cultural and social development of the city. Sustainability, a strong European dimension, and the involvement of the local population are other requirements of a successful bid that must promote European cultural diversity while conveying an attractive image of the city at the international level. Matera hopes that there will be significant long-term cultural, economic and social benefits, as has happened with previous European Capitals of Culture since the program began in 1985.
This is only the fourth time that Italy has been the chosen country, and the very first time that a Southern Italian city has won (past cultural capitals were Florence, Bologna and Genoa). For Select Italy this is an extra-special occasion to celebrate since we already started singing the praises of Matera and the Basilicata region back in 2012; that’s when our founder, Andrea Sertoli, chose Basilicata as his “Dream Trip” for Travel + Leisure’s prestigious A-List, published in the magazine’s September 2012 issue. This was followed a month later by our special edition newsletter about all things Basilicata: Matera’s ancient Sassi, the region’s hidden treasures, sleeping in a cave or an American movie director’s palace hotel, the sounds of the city, and its delicious food including bread, the “staff of life,” which has a deep and traditional significance conveyed by the large, golden-hued loaves of pane di Matera.
Travel + Leisure magazine made a dream trip into a reality when it deemed Basilicata one of the hottest travel destinations of 2013, singling out the region’s 7,000-year-old cave dwellings, peasant-style cuisine, and thermal springs as worthy attractions to tempt tourists down to the instep of Italy’s boot. Off-the-beaten track it may be, but that’s part of the region’s charm: our prehistoric ancestors might have been here before us, however, hordes of 21st century travelers have not. The Sasso Caveoso and the Sasso Barisano reveal their paleolithic secrets in a half-day or full-day guided tour of the Cave World of Matera which is a good introduction to this UNESCO World Heritage Site (it has been one since 1993).
Using the capital city as the starting point, the picturesque towns of Venosa and Melfi will be visited on a full-day excursion on the trail of Basilicata’s famed Primitivo, Negromaro, Sussumaniello and Aglianico wines. An ample country lunch is included in the price of the tour, but if you feel inspired to create your own then a hands-on cooking lesson might be more your speed. Fresh pasta in one of the dozen shapes Basilicata is known for is the basis of a menu that will teach you kitchen skills you can use back at home.
Matera has four years to get ready for its debut as European Cultural Capital for 2019, however, all of the Italian contenders for the honor made a valiant effort to capture the judges’ attention.”
Source: Select Italy