“The European Capital of Culture 2019 is the town of….MATERA!”: just a few words by the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities to unleash a powerful wave of irrepressible joy and excitement in Matera, in San Giovanni Square, where thousands of people had gathered to take part to the announcement. Matera has been able to beat other 5 important and striking Italian candidates: Lecce, Perugia/Assisi, Siena, Cagliari and Ravenna. Matera managed to stand out among the other competitors and it was able to amaze the EU commissioners who came to visit the town on Tuesday, 7th October.
Matera, the town of the popular “Sassi”, once considered to be the “shame of Italy” because of the terrible sanitary conditions in which people where compelled to live, now it has the chance to be born again and show the world its beauty and charm. Matera and its citizens now can prove to the world that it’s no more a “shame”, but something that Italy can now be very proud of: this election represents for the town a kind of “redemption“, the possibility to show that Matera is no more “the suburb of Italy” but that now it could become one of the main centre of the flows of tourism in Southern Italy.
To my opinion, there are several reasons why Matera has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture 2019:
1 - Matera is simply a “unique” town
The other 5 condidate towns are as beautiful and charming as Matera, all of them have their own history and cultural attractions. But…Matera is “unique“, there are no more adjectives to describe it. It lets you immerse in a very ancient history, dating back to the prehistoric age: visiting the Sassi, loosing yourself in that labyrinth is such an amazing and unique experience you cannot live anywhere else. Its landscapes just leave you speechless.
Matera is the second most ancient town in the world and when walking along the narrow streets of the Sassi districts, or when visiting the cave churches or the “Palombaro Lungo” (just to mention a few), you will be captured by its breathtaking cultural attractions and you will be catapulted into a surreal world, so far yet so close. You will be pervaded by a strange feeling, a feeling not to be in a real place, in the real period of time, in the era of technology and Internet.
2 - Citizens have developed a strong sense of “community” and “identity”
So far, Matera has always been seen as part of Apulia more than Basilicata. This happened because Matera is just 15Km far from the border and because the accent is very similar to that of Apulia. Moreover, there has always been an intense rivalry between Matera and Potenza, the two main towns of Basilicata: of course, this prevented the region from developing a sense of community. However, over the last years, everything has changed. The project “Matera 2019″ has unified the two provinces, both from a political and cultural point of view, and local people have begun to feel themselves as being part of a single region, that is Basilicata or Lucania, having a strong social identity.
3 - Citizens had a central role in the project
People coming not only from Matera but also from the whole region and from the surrounding towns of Apulia have always been involved in the project Matera 2019 and in several ways. For example, they were called to express their creativity by decorating white flags (provided by the Matera 2019 commettee itself) with the official logo; or, the commettee selected five families to host at lunch the five EU commissioners during their visit of the town, etc. Every single citizen in Matera wears the pin with the official Matera 2019 logo and he’s very proud of it. Despite of the rain, all citizens gathered in the main squares of the town, on 7th October, to welcome the EU commissioners and convince them to choose Matera as the European Capital of Culture 2019, just through a smile, a handshake, a warm hug… The commissioners themselves couldn’t expect such a hearty welcome.
Why is this designation so important for Matera? Well, for several reasons. From a cultural point of view being the European Capital of Culture is a kind of “redemption” and a way to show the world that Matera is ready to welcome tourists from all over the world, because people have changed, because now the town has that social identity that has been missing so far. From an economic point of view, this designation will create new jobs and it will open up new possibilities in the field of tourism, which is intended to be the leading industry from now on, especially for the young. Young people have always been compelled to move abroad or to the North of Italy to find stimulating jobs; but now, they will have the chance (and the means too) to create or simply find a job here, where they were born, where they have lived so far. Moreover, the town now will get the necessary funds to improve streets, to connect to the town to the national highway network and to the national raylway system (at last!). Is this enough?
4 - Matera could count on a very motivated team
Matera 2019 Commettee is made up of a team of very motivated people who have always believed in the project. A very important role was played by Paolo Verri, the artistic Director of Matera 2019 project, a very principled man who did an amazing job. Paolo heartly believed in this project and he surrounded himself of very motivated and talented people to reach his goal.
For all these reasons Matera deserves to be the European Capital of Culture 2019. Now Matera con look forward to the coming years with greater optimism and hope. Matera, now it’s your turn! Show the world who you are and…good luck!
Photos: Matera 2019
Video: Rvm Broadcast