The excursion will take place on Wednesday afternoon and foresees the following two options.
Option 1: Matera
Matera is located in the region of Basilicata, in the south of Italy, at a distance of about 70 km from Bari. The town lies in a small canyon, the “Gravina”, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The historical centre “Sassi” originates from a prehistoric troglodyte settlement as early as the year 7000 BC.
The Sassi region and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993 (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/670). For the year 2019 Matera has been declared European Capital of Culture.
Option 2: Castel del Monte and Trani
Trani is a seaport of Apulia, on the Adriatic Sea, located at about 60 km from Bari. The old city walls and bastions are lost, but the 13th-century castle has been extensively restored as a museum and performance venue. Some of the streets in the old city area remain much as they were in the medieval period, and many of the houses display more or less of Norman decoration. In Trani there is also one of the oldest Jewish communities in Italy, with several ancient Synagogues. The main church is the Trani Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim, a Greek who died in Trani in 1094 while on his way on pilgrimage to Rome, and some years later canonized by Urban II. The Cathedral lies on a raised open site near the sea.
The medieval castle “Castel del Monte” rises on a rocky hill at an altitude of 540 m, dominating the surrounding countryside at about 30 km from Trani. The castle is a unique piece of medieval architecture: its location, its perfect octagonal shape, as well as the mathematical and astronomical precision of its layout all reflect the broad education and cultural vision of its founder, Emperor Frederick II. It was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1996 (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/398) and it is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the world.
The social dinner will take place on Thursday evening in the Villa Maria restaurant (Castellana Grotte, https://www.villamariaricevimenti.it/), a magnificent villa dated back to the beginning of the last century, immersed in the lush greenery of a park populated by pines and centuries-old cedars. The large and suggestive Sala Belvedere, equipped with spacious windows, plunges into the magic nature of the park to enjoy the surrounding pinewoods and can be used in case of bad weather conditions (unlikely in summer time).
Villa Maria is 15′ by car from the small town of Alberobello, where we plan to have a short visit before the social dinner. Alberobello, UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, boasts remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The “trulli” are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.
The main quarters of the town, Rione Monti and Aia Piccola, are entirely made up of trulli lining the uphill lanes. The name of the town derives from the Latin, Sylva Arboris Belli (wood from the tree of war), after an oak tree which once layed nearby. It seems to have been founded in the XV century by the Acquaviva family, the Counts of Conversano; but it was only from 1635 that the town really began to develop, under the influence of Count Giangirolamo II, called “the squint-eyed”. More about Alberobello at: https://www.alberobello.com/en/.