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The Sassi of Matera – Unforgettable Beauty

By Southern Italy No Comments

A trip to the Sassi in Matera will transport you to a stunning old town perched on a rocky hillside. Seeing Matera with its charming cobbled streets, winding pathways, and vibrant piazzas is every bit as magical as the mythical worlds Narnia or Middle Earth.

The cubist homes here rise up from the hillside, closely packed together and boasting a variety of levels and storeys so intricate it’s often compared to a maze. Walking through the town is full of surprises, with many hidden corners and pathways winding through blocks of age-old architecture that seem to defy the rules of gravity. It is one of the oldest settlements in Italy and its streets tell the stories of generations past through the stacks of stone and mortar.

Life here, the locals will tell you, is good. People have what they need, enjoying the beauty of the countryside, the bounty of the harvest, and great company. The landscape around Matera is arid and dry – one of the dryest in Italy – with few trees and more rock and dirt than vegetation. The locals cultivate olive trees and potted plants or cheerful flowers in window boxes that are hardy enough to withstand the hot, dry climate. Restaurants delight visitors and locals alike with fresh, whole foods harvested from the surrounding areas and incorporated into tantalizing Mediterranean dishes.

In the center of Matera you’ll find the Sassi (the “stones”), spectacular gravity-defying homes that were originally caves that were carved into the stone back in medieval times. There is evidence that people lived here dating back to the Palaeolithic period. In the 1950s many of the homes were declared uninhabitable and the residents were relocated to another part of Matera. The government realized that these unique clusters of cave homes were a treasure of sorts. Restoration efforts were undertaken and with some truly creative craftsmanship, the Sassi were upgraded and converted into inspired living spaces.

The Sassi straddle two worlds, combining elements that stay authentic to their origin as humble cave dwellings yet transform them into hospitable and beautiful shops, restaurants, homes, and other facilities – even a concert hall.

Some of the caves have been cleverly remodelled, combined into larger and incredibly stylish private family residences or chic and trendy boutiques and hotels. Modern inhabitants enjoy the Sassi for their newfound comfort and style, but also for their rich history and beauty.

Not only are they beautiful to explore, their cultural importance was recognized and the Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. Travelers here can delve into history, enjoy breath-taking views, relax and explore the local shops and restaurants, or take in the local arts and music scene. A visit to the Sassi and the Rupestrian Churches is a must for anyone who wants an authentic experience of this region of the Mediterranean. The artwork and architectural embellishments are awe-inspiring.

There’s no better way to experience the incomparable Sassi and Rupestrian Churches of Matera than with our knowledgeable expert local leaders. Our Treasures of The Amalfi Coast and Puglia tour takes you to to see the remnants of the past and the beauty of the present in Matera.

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limoncello is made from delicious Amalfi lemons

Sipping Limoncello on The Amalfi Coast

By Southern Italy No Comments

Nothing is more refreshing after a meal than sipping a deliciously tart Italian Limoncello. Limoncello is a taste of the Amalfi Coast, Italy, where lemon orchards have provided their bounty to generations of Italians — and visitors — for centuries. Trust us, Limoncello tastes best if you’re seated at a charming little restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean landscape. However, it is possible to enjoy this unique taste of Italy anywhere in the world with a little knowledge and preparation.

Lovely Limoncello

Limoncello is an alcoholic liqueur that is native to the Sorrento and Almalfi coastal areas. This bright yellow Italian drink is said to be a digestivo, or digestive aid, of great benefit after you’ve enjoyed a wonderful meal. Authentic Limoncello is made using a special variety of lemon that is grown on the Amalfi Coast. It is called sfusato amalfitano for its uniquely tapered shape and you won’t find lemons like these anywhere else in the world.

If you visit an orchard here along the edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula during the lemon harvest, you’ll notice how huge these sfusato amalfitano lemons are – much larger than typical lemons. Their thick skins are quite sponge-like, protecting the juicy interior of the citrus fruit until it’s time to enjoy their sweetly sour goodness.

Enjoying Limoncello

Most Italians end a hearty meal with a glass of Limoncello, but visitors to Italy also find it’s an excellent way to quench their thirst on a hot day after enjoying the local sights. It’s the perfect beverage for an outdoor patio. You see, Limoncello is not a drink to hurry or rush. Rather, it’s a drink to sip and enjoy slowly so that your tastebuds have time to enjoy the full flavor.

Limoncello is served cold. Some local Italians drink it straight from the freezer. However, those in the know advise against subjecting Limoncello to frozen temperatures. When it gets too cold the flavor is less intense.

The Taste of the Amalfi Coast

You’ll need to come to Italy to taste a truly authentic Limoncello, but with a little patience you can make good Limoncello at home. If you want to try making your own Limoncello at home, we recommend you use organic lemons because you need to use the lemon zest. You don’t want to add chemicals to your drink!

Additionally, Italians make Limoncello with unflavored alcohol that is 95% pure. Some English recipes will call for Vodka, but this isn’t authentically Italian. Look instead for this pure alcohol at your favorite liquor or wine shop; it is often used as a base for making various traditional homemade liqueurs. If you’re looking for a recipe to try we like nonna Maria’s easy Limoncello recipe.

Nonna Maria’s Limoncello Recipe


  • 5 Amalfi lemons (use organic lemons if you can’t Amalfi lemons)
  • 500 ml 95% pure grain alcohol
  • 500 g granulated sugar
  • 750 ml water


  • Peel the lemons. Be careful to take the yellow part only and not the white part. The white part is too bitter and it will ruin your limoncello. Add the peels to a lidded container and pour in the alcohol.
  • Leave the peels to soften and to flavor the alcohol for 20-30 days.
  • When the alcohol is ready, dissolve the 500 g of sugar into 750 ml of water. You can warm up the water to dissolve the sugar more easily just cool it back down to room temperature before you add the alcohol in the next step.
  • Strain the lemony alcohol through a fine sieve and then add it to the room temperature sugar water.

Once you’ve tried Limoncello you’ll want to enjoy your own adventure on the world-renowned Amalfi Coast. Our Treasures of The Amalfi Coast and Puglia tour offers 10 days of beautiful sights and sounds as you travel with a small group of up to 10.  This internationally famous region of Italy boasts beautiful little villages, spectacular views of the ocean, and wonderful winding paths through the mountainside.  Contact our knowledgeable, friendly staff at LocalWonders Travel to book now.

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