Traveling in COVID-times probably doesn’t come with the possibility to check off a lot of your travel bucket list. But luckily, one of the most memorable, and unusual, experiences to be had is in Italy. Where else in the world can you sleep in a room first occupied 9,000 years ago? Staying in a cave-hotel in the Unesco-protected city of Matera is at first sight the most romantic thing you could do, but also – if you make the right choice – a great pleasure for design enthusiasts by seeing how ancient caves become contemporary design objects by combining historic grottoes with modern furniture and vintage delights. The best choice to make if you want to have exactly this experience is the famous Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, which is located in the oldest part of the Sassi quarters and faces the National Park Parco Nazionale Alta Murgia with its Paleolithic caves. For the troglodyte purist, it doesn’t get better than Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita whose romantic cave dwellings overlook the dramatic Gravina canyon.
For a very good reason, Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita became a member of Design Hotels, a company which is best-known for cherry-picking the most outstanding boutique hotels of the world. To understand the magic of this place, you might need a little background information about the city. When filmmakers needed a double for the ancient city of Jerusalem, they turned to the ancient stone town of Matera. Also, in the upcoming James Bond movie “No Time To Die” you will find some of the most memorable scenes to be shot in this ancient village in Southern Italy.
But besides being a living movie set, Matera itself is already all about drama. Not only because of its thousands of years old caves, their stone walls covered in frescoes and churches built in rocks. It is also about their story of its abandonment in the 1950s – since people where still living there without electricity and tab water, which was considered as a shame by the Italian government. The resettlement left the caves remained untouched and uninhabited until the 1990s. Until the creative mind and entrepreneur Daniele Kihlgren started his mission to restore forgotten places in Italy.
DESIGN AND INTERIOR
The hotel comprises 18 cave rooms and an ancient church turned into the restaurant of the historic getaway. For the restoration project in the Sassi (stone caves) of Matera we maintained the proportion of the rooms, used original and recycled architectural materials, hid as far as possible the modern technology used for heating and plumbing, and used minimalist contemporary design solutions what used to be abandoned caves, where sheeps and goats lived along with people in one place, Nowadays everything is a pleasure in those caves, with heated floors, Philippe Starck bathtubs, wi-fi and room service.
RECREATION AND MASSAGES
Within your own cave, you can book a massage. With a soft new age musical background, perfumed oils, herbal teas and many flickering candles, The experts of Sextant le Grotte della Civita will find a suitable treatment among reiki, deep connective tissue, emolymphatic, draining, couple, antistress or relaxant. On special request you could also book a private in-room yoga or pilates lesson.
SUSTAINABILITY AT SEXTANTIO IN MATERA
The main point by Kihlgren is when it comes to rebuild the location, he replaces the architectural fittings which have been lost with material sourced from the local area. Vintage and upcycling at its best. I mean, look at those benches, wooden doors or craftsmen tables made from abandoned materials, which his team designed into . The team calls this “extreme restoration”, because in most restorations ancient signs of life are covered up or removed. But in Matera, Kihlgren wants to maintain the history and culture of the former villagers. Which means, where furniture ir fabrics can’t be recycled, he aims to recreate them as close as possible to the originals. Materials such as bed covers are made from new, using traditional fabrics and artisan techniques. And in the bathrooms, where contemporary design classics are used to provide a high-standard-experience, they fit in perfectly well without pulling attention away from the ancient caves. If you fall in love with ceramics, interior details or home-made jam, you could buy them for your own home. And unlike other hotels in times of COVID, the hotel holds on to their no-plastic-rule. No plastic straws, no unnecessary packaging, no small-sized cosmetic liquids which are thrown away after every guest. Instead you find refillable bottles in the bathroom and nowhere a waste of materials from paper to synthetics.
When it comes food, it’s not a big surprise that you get the best dishes from all over the world in Italy. But the restaurant of Sextantio Le Grotte della Civitia is also worth a visit because of its history. A former church from 13th century turned into a cosy meeting spot. And to be honest, it offered the most delicious breakfast we ever had since becoming travel journalists. For the most part, the cheeses, salumi, breads and marmalades produced in a local organic farm nearby, or hailing from trusted artisan producers close by. Also, if you want to dig deeper into the Italian cuisine, there is a private dinner available (pre-booking required) and cooking classes could also be attended. Either you get teached how to transform flour and eggs into handmade pasta with just a rolling pin, or you book a special food-tour through the city with the concierge.
WHAT TO DO IN MATERA
Apart from chic cave hotels, you find in the former Culture Capital of 2019 now galleries, restaurants, cafes, clubs, and museums to visit. After a day of exploring Matera on foot – since there is no other way because of the narrow alleys, stairs and a ban of cars in the historic part of the city – the scenic terrace which belongs to the suites is the place to raise a typical Italian aperitif before heading to dinner. Local wines, or tisanes, teas, taralli crackers and snacks are instead the key ingredients for a typical aperitivo at Matera, which is all served with room-service.
Rates starting from 170 Euro per night. Thinking about going to Matera soon? We have a special discount for you. Get 10 % off your price by using the promo code “10legrotte2018”. You’re welcome.
More information: designhotels.com