|Mostly facades with caves behind|
|The cathedral tower from our room|
|Still empty caves.|
These will be among the last to be occupied
as they are on the shady side of the hill.
|The work of one man. No charge, but donations are appreciated|
Once we left the Sorrento/Naples area and their heavily trafficked switchbacks, we were on a four-lane highway. This is the best highway we have traveled in Italy. I was expecting something quite different as I had read that roads in southern Italy were much worse than in the rest of the country. At least the roads we traveled were in perfect shape. Perhaps Italy has been shamed into improving these roads. The beautiful cloud-free sky also helped make the ride enjoyable. We passed several hill towns on the way that looked interesting enough to visit as well. Next time we come to Italy, we may budget a couple of weeks of just traveling in southern Italy without specific plans. It seems like a region where that would work well.
|Where we slept. Note the "closet" (hangers)|
We continued our walk up to the cathedral which is closed for renovations and then climbed down the sloping stairs to our room. It may be a bit hard to describe, but steeper slopes often include a step every five feet or so. This sometimes makes walking more difficult as you have to both walk downhill and remember that there is a step down every few feet. It is winter and daylight savings time is over, so it now gets dark around 5:00. Our restaurant would not open until at least 7:00, so we relaxed before heading over to the cave where we had some excellent steak and local Aglianico for dinner.
|Our restaurant: Oi Mari|
|Several cave churches dot the hillsides across from the Sassi|
|The river below with terraced farmland from the past.|
|The oldest part of the Sassi, now almost totally empty.|
|An abandoned cave waiting for someone - You?|
|Ancient bee hives|
|Renovations along the Fascist road on the sunny side|
|New bricks being laid. They are lighter colored and stronger than the originals.|
There is talk of changing them to a darker color to fit in better.
|Our living room at San Giovanni Vecchio B & B|
|Note the symbol of Fascism in the center.|
Grain stalks bound together.
Strength in unity.
|Here eyes in the cup she holds in her left hand|
|Cave church of Santa Lucia Alle Malve|
Malve (mallow) grows abundantly around the church
|Graves on top of the Santa Lucia Alle Malve|
From there we walked further along the road with views of the oldest part of the Sassi until we came to one of the remaining original cave churches. No pictures were allowed inside, but we did see some interesting frescoes from different ages and of differing quality. This church is also interesting because in later years only one of the side aisles was used as a church. The other two were turned into a home. Two pillars were removed and the stones were used to create a separate kitchen area. These stones still contain some of the frescoes in various pieces making for an interesting game of what fits where. The top of the church was used as a burial site. The nature of the cliffs does mean that one thing is built on top of another. Many of the paths and roads are actually the roofs of living spaces below.
|The donkey is home|
|We were surprised at the well-stocked kitchen|
|The cage around the fire is to protect falling children.|
Families might have a dozen children
even with an infant mortality rate over 40%
|Daddy sits on his 'throne'. Note the lack or privacy.|
|Dining in the main square|
|They tore down old church buildings to replace it with this Bank of Italy.|
A short walk to the Piazza San Francesco provided us a view of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and one of the lowlights of any trip. During the 1950s, the other older monastery buildings on the square were demolished so that Bank of Italy could build a modern bank. Dora then pointed us in the direction of a 25 minute video presentation we would watch about the history of the Sassi created by the Italian National Trust. Dora said goodbye and we walked another 150 yards and down a couple of flights of stairs to watch it. Housed in a former Sassi house that was saved from new development when the 92 and 94 year old sisters decided that donating it to the Trust was better than selling it for €50,000,it was a fitting end to our tour as we saw old movies of life in the Sassi along with an explanation of its geological history and the rebuilding that has taken place since the 1990s. The movies were a good counter to the pleasant view one could get by just visiting the reproduction of a cave house. That evening we visited another such house that left us with much the same pleasant feeling so we are glad we saw the videos with their much more realistic perspective.
|A cardinal, pope, king, and bishop|
Reminds us that we all face death
|Old cave church above the cistern|
|Small squares here and in the picture below.|
These were filled with people all day long.
|People who lived in the town above remember the constant din coming from these small squares.|
|Note the small ramps added for carts and wheelbarrows|
|An old cart in front of a museum (closed while we were in town)|
|Grassano from a distance|
|Brindisi di Montagna, another small hill town in the distance|
Looks like an interesting castle to visit someday