Matera – poverty porn?

Matera – poverty porn?

Matera is a place that gets you to question what we want from historic towns; life and rejuvenation or preserved storytelling.

When we were born Matera was the byword for squalor in Italy – a national disgrace a bit like the Gorbals in Glasgow. Families lived in cave dwellings, malaria was common and infant mortality levels (44%) shocked Western Europe. Action followed of course – thousands were forcibly evicted and the slum areas – known as the Sassi – were closed down.

And it’s this recent, emotional history that attracted us. We went to the viewpoint on the other side of the gorge at first light to look across at the cave dwellings and felt transported to biblical times. We walked around the oldest and poorest of the Sassi – Sasso Caveoso – and were still able to enter many of the deserted cave dwellings.

But elsewhere the Sassi are being rejuvenated; restaurants, wine bars and cool hotels are opening in time for the 2019 celebration of the European City of Culture. Of course, we applaud the rebirth of these areas but do we want the physical evidence of the 20th Century story of Matera to be completely erased and for Matera to become just like every other freshly preserved Italian tourist town.

What’s the balance here?

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One thought on “Matera – poverty porn?

  1. I have family in Puglia that I have been fortunate enough to visit in recent years. I have long wanted to visit Matera as well, but have never made it. I appreciate your post and didn’t realize the details that you wrote of in paragraph 2. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

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