The road to Matera
Updated: Feb 28
I have a tendency to being anal and am possibly at times a bit obsessed with controlling my environment. I would not say I am a control freak (but others probably would), as sometimes I like to fly by the seat of my big girl underpants. But for the most part I like to know what is going on and what lies ahead. Apart from the fact that travel is a completely humbling experience, it is also something that is teaching me that you can’t control everything and to just ‘go with the flow’. Harder said than done sometimes.
We arrived in Naples last Friday and as we stepped out of the train station I realised we were in a completely different world to Rome. The air was filled with the honks. I realised quickly that even if there was no fucking reason for it, people just honked. Honk, honk, honk. There were mopeds everywhere that zoomed, screeched, whizzed and flew past like crazy bats out of hell. The air was also filled with their mosquito like buzzing. We had a driver booked to take us to our accommodation but when we got to the meeting point it felt like the chances of finding him were about as remote as finding a driver who drove like someone who was sane.
I tried to use my phone but it decided not to work. I rarely use my phone apart from Instagram and Whatsapp and then it is completely dependent on the WiFi of wherever I am. To actually attempt to use my phone like a real phone and for it not to work started to make me question as to whether I was in control. I started to sweat and noise got on my nerves. I also realised at that time that I did not have an address for our accommodation as we were relying on the driver to take us there. The mosquito like drone of mopeds on crack cocaine was really getting under me skin. But then Pasquale our driver appeared miraculously and we bundled into his car. Driving through Naples for the first time is a test of nerves as you realise there are no road rules, that the way to communicate is via honking, that streets are not as narrow as they appear and you can fit a car down them. I kept breathing in which did not necessarily help but it made me feel better.
Pasquale dropped us off at the top of a hill and pointed down a steep cobbled lane way where he did not even dare to take his car. He kept on repeating to us “222”, “222” so we waved him off cheerily as we went looking for 222. There was no fucking 222. Every other number but no 222. My phone was not working and every time we walked down the lane way we had to walk up again. Eventually two lovely old ladies chattered to us in Italian with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths as we nodded and shook our heads. One of them took Phil down the lane way, another one got on the phone and then our apartment miraculously appeared.
Turns out that 222 does not mean 222 but tu tu tu which is you, you, you. As to what he was trying to tell us I am not quite sure. It seems that I need to do more work on my Italian. He might have been saying you, you, you need to go down the hill you, you, you fools! Who knows. But Pasquale was definitely not giving us the apartment number.
Fabulous apartment in that I loved it. Heaps of space, great location. It was a bit old but I found it quaint. Only problem was that it was cold. Really cold. We shut all the windows and attempted to get the heating working and then went wandering for what seemed like hours to find some food. We seemed to get lost in a posh shopping area. The cobbled lane ways all looked the same and Gucci and Chanel appeared to merge into one endless posh shop. We literally could not find anything to eat and when we eventually found a restaurant it did not open until 7pm. By then we were all tired and hungry and ended up getting a slice of pizza just around the corner of our apartment.
When we woke up that morning there was no heat and no hot water. A specialist was sent round (the father of a friend) but it turned out the specialist could not fix it. As it was Friday there were no more specialists until after the weekend. So there was no showers, no heat and no point washing our clothes as there was nowhere for our clothes to dry. Apart from feeling cold and smelly all the time I loved Naples and wished I had more time to explore the amazing crazy mess of a beautiful city. I also learnt what a bidet was for. The things you find out when you can’t shower.
Next stop was a place in Marinea di Ascea. The fact that Phil managed to get us out of Naples without killing us all was a feat that is worthy of applause as the roads are really an experience. The stop in Pompeii on the way was incredible and another place that brought me to tears. When we got to our place in Marina di Ascea we had a long chat to a lovely old Italian couple before being told the apartment was not ready. This did not mean, it will be ready in an hour or so, it meant that for you, the apartment will never be ready. Turns out the owner had sent us a message after we left Naples. There was also no internet. So at the end of a long day we found a hotel and a Pizzeria. Every cloud has a silver lining, as the owner of the Pizzeria had many relatives in Australia, had been to Australia and Australians had a place in his heart.
Pizza, red wine and much communication lead us to a general feeling of well being and a recommendation that we head to Matera. I spent a few hours on the computer searching for our next abode and then I went to have a hot shower. I was very weary and had been dreaming about a hot shower since I had not had one since we left Rome. So when I turned the tap on in the shower and I could only feel cold water I actually stood there like a Shakespearean tragedy and sobbed. As I sobbed the water got hot so I dried my tears and took off my big girl undies. As we were travelling the next day I got up in the wee hours to do some work and by the time I got into the car to head to Matera I was starting to realise that my clothes were developing somewhat of a pong.
We drove a few hours over mountains and through spectacular scenery and headed to our next accommodation. As we were being shown around by our gregarious host I turned on my phone and found out that there was no internet. The host promised us he could fix it in an hour. Maybe two hours. I showed him the emails we had had the previous night that stressed I needed internet to which he nodded solemnly. So we left. The next little bit involved finding another town, a cafe with internet and booking a hotel. Then we drove to Matera. We drove in at night and our GPS took us around and around and around. We were pointed in several different directions. A lovely fellow got us to follow him to another part of town. Then we were brought back by another fellow. Then finally we walked through an archway in the rocks and we found our hotel.
All I can say is, apart from the fact that I was smelly, that maybe were were meant to end up in Matera. It would have to be one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. That night meant a few hours searching for another place where I stressed again the importance of internet, heating and a washing machine but was now stressing it in a ‘don’t fuck with me’ sort of way.
From what I had seen from our first evening in Matera I was dying to get up and walk in the morning. It was the most extraordinarily moving place I have ever been to. I got up again in the wee hours to do my work in the event that we had another disastrous accommodation day. As 6.30am approached I headed out to explore and had to remind myself to breath as my walk took me near cliff edges, sheer drops, churches on rock faces and views that gave me goose-bumps. When we all had breakfast I was very conscious of the fact that I could no longer hide the fact that my clothes smelt. I had been wearing the same thing for days now and was at the point of being so tired I could not see straight.
So I decided the smartest thing to do was walk down a rock face with the kids, play on a suspension bridge that almost made me lose control of my bladder and climb back up the rock face. It was worth every heart stopping step. We headed to our next accommodation, I am sure, feeling slightly anxious, but it turned out to be perfect. We had had a few days that had not turned out as planned. Things had not been perfect along the way but somehow we had made it to Matera.
Life may be a lot of things, good and bad, but at all times it is an adventure to be savoured.