Time should tick slowly in a city like Matera. Claimed as the third-oldest continually inhabited settlement in the world (after Aleppo and Jericho), the southern Italian city has been home to someone for at least 9000 years. But by any standards, the last 70 years in Matera have been a whirlwind.
In 1950, the impoverished city was declared the “shame of Italy” by the country’s prime minister of the day, a pronouncement that culminated in the eviction of 15,000 residents living in the caves that punctured a deep ravine running through the city.
Today, Matera is a place reborn. Its caves are filled with restaurants, bars, hotels and souvenir stores, and the city is a Hollywood darling. In 2019, it will take centre stage as Europe’s Capital of Culture.