An Ancient Corner of Italy Finds the World on Its Doorstep

Dec 05, 2018 635

BY: Danielle Pergament

A mayor really isn’t supposed to say something like this. “We don’t want tourists.” I waited for the punch line. None came. “We don’t want to be occupied by tourists,” he continued. Tourism, he explained, will deplete a city of its soul — and this city has a prehistoric soul.

I was in Matera, an ancient city of about 60,000 people, perched on top of Italy’s high heel. Mayor Raffaello De Ruggieri and I sat under a pergola of young vines, a spotty veil of shade beneath the Mediterranean’s punishing sun. In 2019, Matera — the jewel of the southern Italian region of Basilicata — will be anointed the European Capital of Culture. It is a source of great honor and pride for the town. All year long, there will be festivals and exhibitions. Thousands upon thousands of, well, tourists will descend on the city.

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