(This is only funny if you are English, and probably not then)
Entering Venosa as so often is the case, unpromising. Every recent effort to construct suburbs in such towns has led to unattractiveness if not ugliness. Perhaps the communal spirit of the medieval is lost to the arrogance of the modern architect and developer. How separate we can become. The people in Venosa belie the architecture and remain soft and accepting. We are quickly directed to an albergo and then set about exploring the town. Memorable? ….would be the extraordinary arched space of the cathedral which is of many phases’ and intentions, and the Civic Square with dog, who seem to be publically owned. Grooming by foreigners is exceptional, but enjoyed. Perhaps we are making up for an earlier rejection of that lovely collie-like-dog, who decided she would be “in our gang” outside Melfi. In other circumstances….
The next day at Palazzo San Gervasio we passed through another pleasant hill town whose present remains mainly in its past. Moving on into an empty country side – an empty farming landscape – we start to notice empty, lonely houses. We bivvy on the side of an old farm track. Strong winds in the night and at 5 am the ploughman going to work means imperfect sleep. By 6 we are heading for Gravina…
Gravina is an old and comfortable town. We have arrived with the force that goes with our proud Gravinian engineer. He found us on the road and decided it was his duty to show us the original subterranean Gravina and then the Roman road and bridge at the “modern” town. Nonetheless we are grateful for his generosity which is again genuine. On the Via Appia between Palazzo and Gravina there is nothing to comfort the pilgrim apart from abandoned government housing and dry fields. By a failed dam project and its destitute villages we find locusts congregating as if for the end of days.
Today the Via Appia would have taken us across miles of dry open farmland without respite. So we decide to walk the 3o km to Matera, “the ancient stone town” and start of a national park devoted to ancient underground churches. The day starts with cloud and rain… and goes on that way! Joy! From a distance the town does not look ancient or stone. Close up it is an appalling agglomeration of 1950s and 1960s condominiums. We walk two or three kilometres into the mess before finding the beautiful ancient town. It is your government at work.