Purple Palate Blog

Day 39- Alboloberro and Matera

Up early, and left our Agritorismo in Otranto, after having found out the huts in the fields where medieval tool sheds, sometimes used for sheppards shelter, and with flat roofs to dry fruit. Said goodbye to my proxy Italian cat Pepe, and hit the road… I have never seen so many black & white cats in my life.

Heading up the middle of the heel today, to checkout the Trulli houses this region is renowned for. 

Alboloberro was a group of these houses used by agricultural workers who were paid to clear the land (mainly of rocks). Their employers weren’t impressed about having to pay tax on the dwellings, so they came up with this design, to fool the taxman, as you could only be taxed on dwelling with a roof. If you heard the taxman was coming, you just took your roof off. Simples. Unfortunately the taxman caught on, and declared the group of dwellings a town in the mid 1700’s, thus changing the tax law.

The entire town is made up of these dwellings, and it really is endearing. The hawkers outside every single shop took the gloss off, so we headed for the more residential part of town.

Ended up having lunch in a converted Trulli, and tried another Negroamaro, this one was more northern by Sole Dei Sud. Not nearly as good as the southern ones. Tannins way too soft, bumped down fruit charachter and not enough acidity to make it interesting.

Back in the car, and heading west to Matera. Roz insisted this would be worth the stop, I was yet to be convinced.

Matera had, until recently had a bad rep as a bit of a ghetto town, but Unesco declared it a world heritage site a few years back, and it has had a change in direction. Fantastic, as the tourists haven’t caught on yet.

We rocked up to our accomodation, a 16th century castle built by the King of Spain… As you do.

Our very knowledgable host (a twenty something year old, whom we later found out owns the castle – thanks Grandad), advised us to head away from town, up into the hills to get a look… So we did… Right on sunset… And it was friggin’ awesome.

It kind of crept up on you… Look, there’s a cave, oh cool, another one… What’s that, geez, an ancient church dug into the mountain… Wow. Then you keep driving, and stumble on this…look closely.

The entire city is built on a labyrinth of caves perched right on the edge of a huge ravine. It is truely ancient, and massively hard to get your head around. The original inhabitants literally just enlarged, and improved what was already there to make liveable spaces.  They created communal areas, and churches. Many of these caves are still inhabited today, and the current city boasts 215 churches.

After crawling around the edge of the ravine, way too close to the edge, and way too far after dark, we decided to head into town for a closer look.

Got lost, got found again, found a park, popped out of the underground carpark into the middle of a ghetto… Yikes. Walked around the corner, and found the “old town”. Amazing.

Walked right into the middle of several thousand soccer fans heading to the game Matera v Tranto. Really good vibe. We are, however, still trying to work out where there is a flat enough piece of ground big enough for a soccer field.

So as we saw so much of Matera was in the low part of the city I decided to go into the lower area to look around.  I walked downstairs and went straight down on my ankle.

I just walked it off like a bos(a big dumb stupid boss).  Roz was a bit worried (tears in my eyes worry her), but I stoically hobbled through the town. Below was the hole I went down.

I eventually begged for social lubrication and sustenance.

We settled on Soul Kitchen.  It was the best restaurant we went to in Italy.  Seriously it kicked ass.

We got the mezzanine table overlooking the restaurant, so we also got a show as well.

The waiter was excellent the wine list fantastic, the food outstanding.  The only issue was translation is not the chef strong suit.  Beef ribs turned out the to be an enormous T-bone steak   Probably the best steak I’ve ever eaten, both our meals were perfect and we even shared dolce.

The wine was an 2009 Negroamaro, which showed lovely aging qualities, and bottle integration.  Mixture of barrique and large format oak made this wine wonderful.  Pondri Angelini wine, wonderful.

Back to our castle.



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