I have already seen quite a lot of the world, but never before had I slept in a cave. Well, there’s a first time for everything! I am headed for Basilicata, a relatively undiscovered and thinly populated region in the south of Italy. This area is characterised by rugged nature, the Ionic and Tyrrhenian coast, agriculture, small villages. A true diamond in the rough!
The absolute highlight of this particular diamond is Matera, a city that is made up of two parts: the modern area, with fancy shops, bars etc. and the gorgeous ancient part Sassi. This part originates from a prehistoric settlement and consists of an extensive series of cave dwellings. Because of this, Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was declared European Cultural Capital of 2019.
A true diamond in the rough
Some ten years ago, a small part of Matera was bought by Daniele Kihlgren, a Swedish-Italian philanthropist/idealist/philosopher/dreamer/millionaire (it is simply impossible to describe people like him one word). Completely taken in by the beauty and authenticity of old and abandoned Italian villages, he sought a way to preserve these places. Thus he came up with “Albergo Diffuso” – a concept that, in the face of urban development, aims to revive the soul of historical buildings and villages by creating a “widespread” hotel (in the way that is has to be converted out of various historic buildings in the community) – in the most authentic and respectful way. What a wonderful idea that there are people in the world who appreciate the value of such cultural heritage.
Protection of the cultural heritage
This Hideaway is his second project. With the help of local professionals, he restored several 9.000 year old cave dwellings and transformed them into the most wonderful accommodation I have ever come across. There are only 18 (cave) rooms – ranging from classic or superior caves to cave suites. The reception is in another cave and a centrally located ancient church hewn into the rock acts both as restaurant and communal area.
‘Mind-blowing’ was the first thing that came to mind when I arrived at this place. You can still feel the spirit of times gone by, but you certainly won’t have to live in harsh conditions. For instance, an endless amount of candles light the rooms, but there are also light switches.
The large comfortable beds were created by local craftsmen, as was the rest of the carefully integrated furniture. The bed linen is handmade as well and the egg-shaped bath, designed by Philippe Starck, is a somewhat surrealistic object in the cave room, but also very tastefully integrated – neat! All bath amenities are fresh and local and the ‘power shower’ is perfect! They even installed underfloor heating for colder months. Luxury and authenticity are perfectly balanced and provide a unique experience.
This Hideaway is an ideal base from which to discover the rest of Matera. And I do suggest you wander through the many small cobblestone alleys that are the essence of this special city. There are plenty of nice restaurants where you can enjoy a lovely meal, and be sure to visit one of the viewpoints at night and watch the magically lit Sassi, very enchanting! The natural historic archaeological park Murgia, with its rock churches and rugged nature, is also worth a visit.
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