Greg and Silvia
Christmas in Matera
Updated: Jun 7, 2018
Happy New Year Everyone! Buon anno!!
We hope you all had a lovely #Christmas all around the world and we wish you all the very best for 2018.
When you think of #Christmas time travel destinations, perhaps Italy isn’t the first place you will think of. Italy is a place only for the Spring and Summer - right?
Well, you’d be surprised. This #Christmas, we decided to try and document a little bit of what happens here in #Matera and #Basilicata during the festive season. It also gave us a great idea: What if we created a tour for travellers who wanted to experience #Christmas time with an authentic Southern Italian family? That’s exactly what we’d like to offer to travellers for December 2018. We believe that November and December are just as good a time to visit Italy as any other month of the year and in fact there are a range of benefits, including there being less tourists than the summer months.
But what exactly do we get up to here in #Matera at Christmas time? Well, as anyone who has experienced traditional Southern Italian culture before will tell you, most things here revolve around...FOOD! Christmas time is no different and in fact there are many delicious things that we only make during this time. For instance, pettole (fried bread dumplings with raisins) are an absolute must for a #Basilicata Christmas and that's just one of the many delicious antipasti that we start our celebrations with. Cannelloni, a wonderful home-made tube shaped pasta filled with delicious mince and an incredible tomato and bechamel sauce, are amongst the primos that really are a special treat for this time of year. On Christmas Eve, you'll find everyone eating fish and seafood together with their families, before they open their presents at midnight. You'll see wonderful mixed seafood risottos and pastas and wonderful chunks of freshly fried salted-codfish - a real favourite amongst the Lucani (the people of our region). The desserts are full of specialities also with incredible light biscuit like treats that are topped with wonderful local honey, called cartellate or the most delicious almond brittle, which Marisa makes every year at Christmas. To top it all off, we enjoy a range of incredible digestive liquors such as our delicious home-made limoncello or, Greg's personal favourite, the incredible Mandarinetto - like limoncello, but with Mandarins! Yum! Of course, you'll also see a lot of the more nationwide treats like Pandoro cake or Panettonne, which family and friends all wash down with a glass of spumante or prosecco.
It's not just the food that makes #Matera and #Basilicata a special place to be at Christmas either. #Matera is already one of the most beautiful cities in #Italy (in the world in fact) but when we put the #Christmas lights and decorations up, it all becomes that little bit more magical again. The streets are filled with fairy lights and the shops are adorned in festive decorations and it's a wonder to see all of the locals calmly going about their #Christmas shopping, whilst at the same time taking the time to stop and speak to friends and relatives and enjoy the odd coffee or ice cream.
One of the most famous things to experience in the Sassi di #Matera at #Christmas time is our renowned 'Presepe' or Nativity. Travellers from all over #Italy and also other parts of the world come to experience the story of the nativity played out by costumed actors throughout the streets of the Sassi. Think of it like a promenade theatre show that tells you the story of the birth of Christ in an unbelievable film like setting. In fact, one of the reasons our 'presepe' is so popular is that Matera is constantly used as a setting for stories about Christ. Mel Gibson's 'Passion of the Christ', the most recent version of 'Ben Hur' and Joaquin Pheonix's latest film about Mary Magdalen have all used the Sassi di Matera as the perfect setting for a biblical story. What's great is that you don't have to be religious to experience something like this in such a beautiful setting - it's a spectacle in itself.
We absolutely loved sharing our local folk music with our guests in 2017 and we can't wait to introduce even more people to the ancient sounds of Matera in 2018 and onwards. Christmas time in Matera brings even more fascinating folk music with 'Zampognari' (Shepherds) who play their wonderful bagpipe like instruments in the streets at this time of the year. It's absolutely fascinating and beautiful, though as a child, Silvia confesses that she was very scared by these strange looking men playing this enchanting music!
So, it's difficult to describe what Matera is truly like at Christmas time. Somehow words or even photos just don't do it justice. That's why we've made this short little video for you all to give you a sense as to what it's like here at Christmas time. Think of it as a little belated Christmas gift to you all! Enjoy!