I locked up the place I was staying and dropped off the key at the cafe before getting a bite to eat and heading out of town. The ankle problem seemed to have calmed down, and was most likely due to a twist the day before and some inflammation that hadn't had time to calm back down. I was able to run continuously to Matera without any problems (with the exception of one very desperate water stop 7 km out).
When I got into town, I was hungry and thirsty and in some serious need of chocolate milk. All the supermarkets were closed, so I stopped in the first cafe I came across that was open. Not only did it have little (200 ml) boxes of Nesquik (I normally buy the three pack and drink it all), but it also had a half sized container of the powder for sale. I went with the more economical option and bought the powder. A calzone, a plate of tomatoes and cucumber and two liters of extremely chocolaty milk made me feel much less hungry.
On the way into the historic part of town, I called Gino who I had contacted through couchsurfing. I wasn't really sure if he could host me, but we planned on meeting around 6:30 to find out.
Until then, I wandered around what Matera is famous for: the Sassi. Homes and churches carved into or built from the rock of the mountainside. It is a pretty amazing place...and while I haven't seen the movie, I guess it is where "Passion of the Christ" was filmed. Many of these cave dwellings were occupied until the 1950s, but now many are abandoned. While some of them were full of trash and in general pretty grungy, there was no shortage of places for me to sleep if I ended up on the street at the end of the night. Matera is like homeless dude heaven.
While the "Sassi" part of Matera (another UNESCO site) includes the buildings that are built from tuffa blocks, I was much more interested in those that were carved into the stone. When you are carving your house out of a mountain, it isn't quite the same as drawing out a plan on a piece of paper and then making it real. Instead, you are sitting there with your spoon or whatever (I'm sure it is not a spoon, but that is what I like to imagine) carving away at a wall. Because of this, the layout is much more organic and everything generally branches from the main portal. Every shelf and square inch becomes important when you are digging it out by hand. When you build a wall, you define an interior space by construction of the exterior. When you "build" a cave, you define an interior space by deconstruction of the interior.
When 6:30 rolled around I met up with Gino at the fair-trade market he worked at and he informed me that while he couldn't host me, I could take a shower at his place and he could find someone that could. Both of those things ended up being true, and I ended up having a place to stay with Francesco, a friend of his who had a spare bed. I did end up spending the night in the Sassi, but in a renovated apartment in the historic part of town. Significantly more comfortable than sleeping in a cave.
11 September 2009