I’m always thinking about summer trips and love a memorable hotel so today, I’m exploring the latest addition to my ‘unique hotels to stay in’ bucket list – one with a special story, set inside a series of deserted caves in a medieval Italian mountain village. How magical does it look?
La Grotta della Civita is a luxurious hotel with 21 ‘cave rooms’ as well as a restaurant set in a ‘cave church’. It took a total of 10 years to renovate from what was essentially a series of deserted caves in the I Sassi district – literally meaning ‘the rocks’ – of the city of Matera in southern Italy. Rooms start from around 250 euros a night.
People are said to have lived in the caves for 9,000 years (!). In the 1950s, they were in such bad shape without sanitation, the inhabitants were relocated and the area abandoned. In the 1980s, the hippies moved in, along with a rebellious young German runaway called, Margareta Berg, who decided after a string of boring jobs to fulfil her dream of creating her own ‘establishment’ – this unusual, magical ‘cave’ hotel is now listed as one of the most beautiful unusual hotels in the world!
To bring the caves back to life, Margareta worked with a Swedish-Italian philanthropist Daniele Kihlgren, whose work restoring villages in the Abruzzo region she read about in a local newspaper. They’ve kept the hotel decor simple throughout to reflect the cave-dwelling lifestyle and all the rooms have a breathtakingly romantic atmosphere (every evening, your hosts light lots of candles in your room for a magical effect!)
There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms, although there are a few luxuries – cobblestone floors are heated from underneath, bathrooms have state-of-the-art Philippe Starck tubs, cleverly placed LED spotlights illuminate the hidden nooks and in case you’re not quite ready to disconnect, there is WIFI in every room (phew!).
Today, the city of Matera and the Sassi have also been re-generated and are thriving with new local businesses. The area is also a favourite location with Hollywood film makers who love to shoot scenes by the gorge (Fun fact: Mel Gibson shot some scenes from the Passion of Christ here).
Italy has nearly 1,500 abandoned historical towns and villages in its mountains and Kihlgren has already bought nine more in the Abruzzi village with hopes to create more ‘cave’ hotels. The idea is to restore the villages and the houses one by one and give them new life as restaurants, serving wine cellars, tea rooms, shops and ateliers to revive community in the Sassi and entice travellers off the beaten path.
Visit the website, here.