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It’s not our usual route to bring in an outside tour guide for our groups, but if ever there was a town to really delve into, Matera would be it! So we researched and found the best of the best! Our morning with Nadia was not only fascinating and entertaining, but she was like one of the group when we all parted ways at the end of the tour, with hugs and applause all around as she left us. We covered a lot of ground in the sassi this morning, learning the tumultuous history of the town and visiting some of the rugged, hidden cave churches with their faded frescoes on the walls. Matera is an amazing and beautiful town, but when you learn about the history of this place, it becomes even more impressive.

Matera

We’ve had so many feasts lately that we kept lunch today just a light sampling at a local enoteca of some meats and 20140624_130406cheeses, supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables from that morning’s market in town. Gathered at small tables outside the enoteca, everyone enjoyed sharing their favorite parts of the morning’s tour while refilling their plates with olives, slices of caciocavallo, cherry tomatoes, fresh bread, and peaches. It was a great way to end the morning!

A free afternoon found a lot of people in the hotel’s special underground thermal spa. Following the prescribed path would lead you from a sauna to a meditation room, whirlpool, steam shower, and finally, a pool that leads you through a series of caves before arriving in a hydrotherapy pool. Just what everyone needed after our hike this morning!

20140624_203923Much relaxed after the afternoon in the pools, the group had a few glasses of wine on the patio before heading up (and up, and up…) to Ristorante Stano, located at the top of the sassi. The antipasti tonight featured some new players we haven’t seen yet on this trip, including arancini, eggplant parmigiana, and pureed fava with wild chicory. This mini-feast was followed by not one, but TWO pasta courses, a secondi of lamb with crispy potatoes, and an incredible chocolate dessert! (did we mention this was a culinary tour??)

The walk back down the hill was much needed and there was a special treat when we stumbled upon an orchestra performing in the square!! Only in Italy!