• EXPLORE eNewsletter from Travel Guard | June 2012

    If you want to explore the ancient wonders of Italy sans crowds, perhaps the town of Matera is a good place to start your vacation. The town located in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy, has been settled since Paleolithic times. Romans founded the area in 3 BC and rock hewn buildings jutting out of the hillside make most of the old city look exactly like it did thousands of years ago. Visitors to this stunning area can stay in homes that were created centuries ago, eat food from recipes of bygone times and tour ancient cathedrals and other buildings chiseled into a majestic hillside.

    The Sassi (Ancient Town)

    The city of Matera is most famous for its ancient area "Sassi di Matera" (stones of Matera). The Sassi are stone houses that many people believe were some of the first human settlements in Italy. Houses are half-carved and half-built from the surrounding rock hills, and in some cases, streets are located on the rooftops of other houses.

    Visitors to Matera can tour the cave-like dwellings and even spend a few nights in them. Before you go about thinking "who would spend the night in a cave?" remember these rock-hewn dwellings have been painstakingly restored to their former glory and each room offers amenities – albeit simple and minimalistic - like a hotel.

    Foodie Heaven

    If you like immersing yourself in local culture, then you'll love eating in Matera. Much of the city's fare comes from ancient recipes that have been handed down for centuries. Great places to try are Baccanti which is perfect for a romantic meal, special occasions and entertaining clients. Baccanti is nestled in the ancient rocks of Matera and offers a simple yet elegant dining experience with unique entrees.

    Also found in the ancient rocks is the Ristorante Francesca. This restaurant is in a beautiful setting and diners are able to enjoy eating outside as well as inside. Attentive waiters and exquisite food from various regions of Italy make the Ristorante Francesca a place you'll want to revisit.

    Another local favorite is the Golden Restaurant. Visitors rave about their freshly prepared fish and meat and other sumptuous local cuisine. This restaurant is great for a romantic meal, large groups and special occasions and boasts soothing music, great service and a good price.

    Cathedrals

    Since Matera is "ancient" in the true sense of the word, it's seen its share of religions rise and fall over thousands of years. One of the religious buildings still in existence is the Matera Cathedral. This cathedral dates back to the 13th century and rests on the highest point of the city of Matera. Venturing into the building, one will notice wooden choir stalls, a nativity and paintings nearly as old as the structure itself.

    Built in 1193 for nuns sent from Palestine, another church in Matera, San Giovanni Battista boasts intricate carvings and columns outside and inside. San Giovanni Battista was the first building that was constructed outside the city walls and served as a place to conserve food. In 1480 the building was abandoned due to its isolation outside the city and the war time risk to the nuns who lived there.

    There are many wonderful things to see and do in the ancient city of Matera. For assistance planning a future visit to Italy, see your travel agent, or learn more by visiting these websites:



    Be Sure to Pack Travel Adapters When Traveling Abroad

    Will you be traveling abroad soon? If so, have you purchased an appropriate electrical adapter? When traveling abroad, many people may be annoyed to find that electrical outlets are not the same as they are elsewhere. Having a stash of adapters is the best way to go so that you can use your electric travel gadgets while on vacation without having to worry about blowing a fuse.

    Traveling to the European Union, which consists of 27 sovereign states including Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK, will be a breeze with a two-prong circular shaped adapter, which will convert any electrical cord to the country's socket size.

    However, older buildings in the UK, France and Germany may have different outlets that predate the unification, so it may be a good idea to buy both the European Union outlet and the adapter specific for those countries just to cover all bases.

    You can find more detailed information about travel adapters through this helpful article on REI.com.



    Top 5 Places to Visit in the World

    1. Paris
    2. Barcelona
    3. London
    4. San Francisco
    5. New York City

    To learn about why these locations made the top places to visit and learn about other top places around the world, click here.





    Where in the World?

    Where in the world was this photo taken and what is the structure called?

    Answer:
    This is the Temple of the Buddha Si Sanphet and it's located in Ayuthaya, Thailand. To learn more about this magnificent structure, click here.



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