Matera, why you must visit it now

Matera

I’ll admit it. It was through Instagram that I fell in love with Matera and it became a constant, fixed, ever-present travel obsession goal. And finally, this summer – my summer of fulfilling Italian dreams and exploring my home country-  I managed to see it with my own eyes.

As much research you can do about Matera, as much as you stalk people on Instagram and Pinterest, there is not much that prepares you for seeing the shiniest Italian gem for the first time.

World-known for its famous sassi, Matera is located on the border of Basilicata and Puglia and is one of my latest (and favourite) discoveries in Italy. Walking around this cute town where the sun reflects off the white limestone is not only breathtaking but extremely fascinating because of its history but also for its stunning beauty. But things were very different not too long ago…

THE OLD ITALIAN SHAME

Matera dates back to the Paleolithic Age and once you get there, you will see that not much has changed. Matera, after Petra in Jordan, is the oldest city in the world which was continuously inhabited for more than 30,000 years. It was once considered a giant slum filled with malaria and where poor people were living in medieval conditions. In caves. Exactly as described in the controversial book ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli‘ by Carlo Levi (1945), there was no running water or electricity and people were really living in very basic conditions. Truth to be told until the 1950’s Matera was also where prisoners were sent to live (and possibly die) in horrible conditions. In 1952, after the visit of the then prime minister, the Italian government ordered its evacuation due to inhumane living conditions and the city was left behind and abandoned by everyone but the addicts and the “bad people”. The residents were offered a new apartment in the new Matera, but some struggled to live their homes, livestock and families.

MATERA TODAY

The city was never completely empty until the 1980s, but it’s only in the last two decades that the government and the local authorities and entrepreneurs have launched and managed a deep and important make over and facelift. Today, Matera has re-shaped its streets, caves and general vibe. There are luxury and boutique hotels at every corner and you can dine at some of the best Italian restaurants right in the same caves that not long ago hosted entire families and their livestock, often in the same room.

After so much general effort, in 1993, Matera was named a UNESCO World Heritage sites, which means that it is considered of ‘outstanding value to humanity and is protected to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the area.” Matera will also be the 2019 European Capital of Culture and I think this gem is totally ready to attract thousands of visitors.

First of all, let me tell you that the sassi aren’t what you think (or what I thought!). Many people think that Matera’s caves are the “sassi”, but they’re not. The sassi (literally meaning “stones”) refer to the two neighbourhoods, Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, made of stone dwellings in porous limestone of tufa in the ancient town. The original living quarters were primitive cave dwellings on the other side of the canyon. Gradually, the people made their way over to build the city you can visit today. 

To really get a feeling of Matera, you need to walk (and get lost) among the narrow lanes between houses.

 

 

 

How to explore the city 

Kids, there is a new way to explore a new city and this new way is an app called Aroundly (available in the App Store and google play). Aroundly allows you to tailor your visit to your preferences, whether you are alone or in a group, looking for fun or culture, this app creates an itinerary just for you takes you around Matera (or Cagliari, Erice, Catania, Trapani, Siracusa, Trieste and many other cities) and puts you in touch with locals and new friends.

Where to stay in Matera 

Sant’Angelo Resort

When I was invited to stay at the Sant’Angelo Resort in Matera, I had no doubts to say YES and immerse myself in this stunning hotel and its ancient walls and rooms. The owners took on the massive project to transform these caves that were once humble abodes, into splendid residences, suites and luxury rooms in order to redeem and restore the noble soul of an old civilization. The result is a mesmerising resort where you are constantly spoiled by incredible views over the old town and where every little detail screams luxury, but also home. I had a fantastic stay at Sant’Angelo and I am sure I’ll go back next time I am in Matera.

As I always do when I travel for work, I opted for breakfast in bed which was served in a sumptuous basked filled with all the delicacies you would expect from such a top notch hotel.

Vicolo Fiore

If you are looking for a simpler room in Matera, then Vicolo Fiore is the go to option. Only 50m from the Piazza Pascoli viewpoint, this brand new and super cute apartment features two double rooms (Barisano & Caveoso, the names of the two neighbourhoods) and a brand new kitchen that offers all you need for a short stay in town.

You will have all the comforts and facilities you will need for a short or a long stay in Matera, including (strong) wi-fi making a perfect place for fellow digital nomads looking for a place to work and stay put for a short period of time. Another plus is the free parking (which is a massive plus in Matera which is almost completely car-free).

 

How to reach Matera 

  • Train: if you want to travel by train, the easiest way is to first get to Bari which is connected to Trenitalia (the national train system and it’s a 4-hour train ride from Rome to Bari), then go to the regional train site, Ferrovie Appulo Lucane, putting in “Bari Centrale” as your starting point and “Matera Centrale” as your endpoint. The ride takes between 1 hour and 15 minutes and 1.5 hours and it is very cheap (something like 2 euros). From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the sassi of Matera.
  • Car: as part of our #fromnorthtosouthandbacksummer road trip we came by car, but parking in the centre of Matera can be quite difficult (erm…impossible!) since it’s a big ZLT area (no cars allowed except for residents), but you can still find a solution by talking to locals or parking just outside the city center.

INTEresting FACTS and tips ABOUT MATERA

  • Matera was tagged a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993
  • Here is where Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’ movie was filmed
  • Forget your heels and wear (very) comfy shoes – ideally with a good sole as the streets can be quite slippery
  • Fully charge your camera batteries and bring a wide angle lens if you have one

BOOKS & MOVIES 

  • Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi’
  • The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson
  • Ben Hur
  • La Lupa, 1953
  • Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo 1964, by  Pier Paolo Pasolini

WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT MATERA NOW

Today, the city (still) has a great non-touristy vibe. I don’t think it will be the same next year since Matera will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture and I am sure it will attract even more visitors in the next decade and beyond. So, if you don’t love crowded places and queuing every 10 minutes book your stay in Matera now!

Sleeping in a cave? Where else can you experience it? I am not sure, but I think Matera is the only place in the world.

As Carlo Levi said:

Anyone who sees Matera cannot help but be awe-struck, so expressive and touching is its sorrowful beauty

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Digital Nomads Trail – Stay Connected at MAADS while in Cambodia

digital nomads cambodia

Are you another digital nomad thinking to skip Cambodia because you’ve heard that the wifi is s*%t?

Please rethink.

Like most of you know, since I’ve left my corporate job in London two years ago, I’ve been doing all sort of gigs and jobs to sustain my travels while slowly finding my little niche as a digital nomad and, more recently, entrepreneur. You can read more here where I answered the question that I get asked about 43925704375943 times a week.

Time has passed since I wrote that blog post and in the meantime, I’ve religiously decided to drop anything that wasn’t very profitable, long-term or aligned to my values. To cut the story short, I’ve slowly narrowed my scope to become a remote content creator, influencerSEO specialist and yes, start-up entreprenuer. Maybe a weird mix, but one that works extremely well for me, but especially for my clients.

Since I’ve achieved the official status of digital nomad I could no longer stay in remote places or hostels with crappy wi-fi. Being connected has become essential to me and that’s why in Cambodia, a country known to lack reliable wifi I decided to get in touch with MAADS. This is a little chain of stunning boutique hotels all around Cambodia. But the peculiar aspect of each and every hotel that belongs to MAADS is that they all offer impressive comfort for us, the vagabonding digital nomads.

Not only they are impressive structures that offer all sort of services you might need, you can also rely on FAST internet and comfortable working stations.

While I was in Cambodia, I had the unique opportunity to stay at two of their properties in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Guess what? Both times, I extended my stay and I was tempted to just lock myself in the room and move in. Forever.

ABOUT MAADS

All MAADS hotels have a distinctive identity and each remains true to its local architectural heritage, design and atmosphere. The founders, Marie and Alexis de Suremain, are the minds behind this string of hotels, restaurants and shops in Cambodia.

Nature has always been the inspiration behind all their projects starting from the opening of the first hotel in Phnom Penh, in 2006. To today, the founders and MAADS stand for responsible and sustainable tourism.

But MAADS is so much more than this. It’s also known for:

  • respecting and actively contributing to the destination by promoting local creativity and cultural activities
  • offering more than facilities, food and a bed. People choose MAADS to immerse themselves in a dream
  • being inspired and devoted to the natural environment.

 

TEMPLATION SIEM REAP – CAMBODIA – MAADS ASIA

The property

Minutes away from the spectacular Angkor Wat and located in a very quiet area of Siem Reap away from the tourists, Templation is a true oasis of calm, silence and beauty.

The hotel features Junior Suites, Pool Suites and Pool Villas as well as a RestaurantSpa & FitnessMain Pool and the shop Cambomania.

During our stay, Ale and I had the fantastic opportunity to be the first guests to attend a local cooking class lead by the Head Chef. Set in the gorgeous garden and filled with delicious spices and tastes it was one of the highlights of our stay.

Templation Gallery

 

DETAILS

Templation is north of the new Angkor Ticketing Center, closer to the entrance to the temples, and at 9 kms from Siem Reap International Airport, avoiding congested downtown Siem Reap. A 5mns drive will get you to Angkor Wat, the National Museum or the city centre. info@templation.asia  +855 (0)63 969 345  +855 (0)92 783 622  Rok Rak Street, Modul 3, Phum Sla Kram, Siem Reap, Cambodia

TEAHOUSE PHNOM PEHN – CAMBODIA – MAADS ASIA

The property

Inspired by Asia’s love and knowledge for tea, Tea House is one of Phnom Penh most peculiar hotels. The design combines classic Chinese details with the latest technology and facilities. Once you step inside, you will feel like entering a secret garden of quiet and peace right in the middle of Cambodia capital city. The perfect place to relax and get some work done.

The hotel features a Tea LoungePoolTea GardenRestaurantSpa and a Cambomania shop.

All the rooms are simple yet stylish and you can choose from two bedroom suite to our standard double for lone travellers or couples, all include free (fast) Wi-Fi and generous buffet breakfast.

Teahouse Gallery

DETAILS

TeaHouse: info@theteahouse.asia  +855 (0)23 212 789  #32, Street 242,  Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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If you also would like to stay at Teahouse MAADS in Phnom Penh while exploring Cambodia, make sure to use the DIGINOMAADS code when booking so that you can enjoy a 10% discount and a free 30-minutes massage. [Long/medium arrangements also available]

 

Massive thank you to MAADS, Bernard Cohen and my favourite model Alessandra.

A slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas

You know I’m not a big fan of big, global, heartless hotel chains where you end up waking up in the same room whether you are in Paris, Rio or Sydney.  As you have already read here and seen on my Instagram, I’m a big fan of boutique hotels and quirky accommodations that have a personality and do things differently.

So, when I was invited by QT Resort for a stay at their slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas, I couldn’t decline the offer!

QT is not quite what you’d think, it’s not your ordinary hotel, it’s an eclectic mix of design and art, it’s style and luxury, with a touch of quirk all in #QTstyle!

The Experience

My day started with a wonderful SPA treatment at their spaQ where my incredibly talented masseuse managed to magically soothe each and every knot around my shoulders and back after five months of wild (read uncomfortable) camping around Australia. I literally felt like I had a new body when I left.

QT ResortAfter the restoring treatment, we were welcomed for lunch at Estilo where we had gorgeous mini-burgers and smashed avocado on toast… Yum!

We later went for a few laps at the olympic pool and I once again promised myself to learn how to play tennis while watching a couple hitting hard the ball.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sipping fantastic cocktails at the pool where the young brilliant barman asked us for our favourite spirits instead of a name which made every round a nice surprise to our thirsty palates.

QT Resort

Dinner was served at Bazaar, a beautifully-designed restaurant inspired by international street stalls, souks and bodegas that recreates a traditional marketplace which offered various options of vegetables, meat and fish. I obviously went for half a dozen oysters and some fresh salad before trying a couple of those cute mouthwatering desserts. Everything was of course washed away with a beautiful South Australian sauvignon blanc. I am not a big fan of buffet especially at dinner and I would have much preferred the usual experience of ordering a la carte instead, but still the idea behind is very original, but in my opinion it would work much better at lunch time.

QT Resort

 

Breakfast was probably my favourite meal at QT since it has about five or six different types of yoghurt (HURRAH!), LOADS of fresh fruit, pancakes and hash browns, eggs, sausages and bacon, and plenty of pastry. I think that nowadays hotels which want to really stand out from the mass should offer real espresso coffee along their breakfast: it would make everything so perfect rather than the usual instant coffee…

EXTRA

While away Bookshop & Cafe
This cute little cafe quickly became my favourite in the week I spent in Port Douglas. Not only they have a great selection of books about all topics, but they also serve wonderful coffees and delicious cakes. I went back there day after day and the staff won my personal award for the most welcoming and friendly service in the whole of Australia. Well done!

THE FACTS

I was a guest at QTResort Port Douglas, all views are my own. You can book your own stay through their website here. I enjoyed my QT 2 Bedroom Villa Garden View which is $439 per night with breakfast included or $395 if you are a QT Member: it’s completely free to join and you can earn points towards FREE nights!

QT is perfect for…. stylish tropical breaks and romantic weekends away

Address: 87 – 109 Port Douglas Road, 4877, QLD, Australia

 

What do you think of this hotel? Are you planning a trip to Port Douglas and considering a stay here? If you enjoyed this post or have any questions about this hotel, please leave me a comment in the box below! x

Want to read more about other special accommodations? Check out my brand new DREAM section here

Port Douglas

 

 

Digital Nomads Trail: Yab Yum, Goa | India

I had heard of Tripzuki through some friends who had mentioned they had the coolest accommodations in India and since I am one of the many digital nomads around the world, I thought this was going to be the perfect place for a week or so of work & relax. I had a look online and I was impressed by the number and diverse accommodation they have in their portfolio. Tripzuki, a young, hip start-up provides travellers in India with local expertise, advice and inspiration, underpinned by a gorgeous collection of unique, well-run, ‘boutique’ hotels, all of which are directly bookable via their website.

Set in a coconut jungle just off one of the best and most tranquil beaches in North Goa, this intimate, eco-friendly boutique resort is the perfect place for all digital nomads looking to get some work done while chilling by one of the most popular beaches in India.

The hobbit-like, long-haired, eco-conscious 14 huts are itself a great attraction of the Yub Yum, in fact when I moved there I quickly extended by stay by a couple of nights.

One of the things I loved the most there, was the fact I had no need to wear shoes or flip flops, in fact these where forgotten by my hut for the entire stay 🙂 The lovely sandy path takes you from the entrance gate to the beach, the restaurant and the reception. Even to go to the nearby restaurants/café you can forget your sandals and just enjoy being barefoot for a while, especially at night when the sand is enjoyable cold.

Yab Yum isn’t a luxury resort, but it’s the perfect place if you are looking for peace, privacy and a very good vibe.

On top of the huts there are also 5 cottages (with A/C) by the beach, but personally I turned down one of them to try the adventure of being in a hairy beach-hut. Oh! If there is one thing I like to spoil myself with when travelling is breakfast in bed or in my bedroom. So, when I found out that at Yab Yum, a rich and generous breakfast is served just outside your dome, every morning, well, I knew it was going to be looove!

✪ Perfect for:
Digital nomads, remote workers, online entrepreneurs, family, couples looking for a romantic stay or a perfect honeymoon on the beach


✪ Book your stay here

GALLERY

Avalon Retreat – Hobart | Australia

After walking, climbing, running in and around Hobart all day long, Avalon Retreat was truly a retreat, especially the beautiful outdoor Huon pine bath I had under the stars! This modular pod right in the centre of the CBD, sits on top of an office building and boosts two very large bedrooms (sleeps 4) with en- suite bathroom complemented with a gorgeous custom made Avalon toiletry range crafted with locally sourced products and fragrances. There is a massive living room and stunning kitchen equipped with anything (and more) you might need during your stay, including a full breakfast which you can cook at your leisure, including free range eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, juice, Nespresso coffee and serious tea selection. Throughout the property you can also enjoy complimentary WiFi, an Apple TV and a Sonos music system.

Avalon City Retreat is built for sharing, quiet noise, celebrations, contemplating, dreaming, cuddling and fun. This soothing sanctuary is an oasis, a memorable escape from ‘the circus’.

✪ Perfect for: A family getaway, a romantic stay or a different business accommodation
✪ Book your stay here: www.avalonretreats.com.au

Hotel Hotel – Canberra | Australia

Hotel Hotel is more than a place to stay, it’s more than a hotel, it’s a Hotel Hotel. With two capital Hs.

Nestled in the New Acton precinct area and part of the Nishi building, Hotel Hotel is the result of an deep partnership between more than fifty designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. Hotel Hotel  was created with people – people in mind as it’s stated on the doors at their other entrance. The founders chose a stylish design over a flashy luxury one. It’s cool, without being overbearing.

On the first night I managed to stay in one of their apartments which was oh! so well-decorated and beautifully thought through that I immediately felt at home. I normally don’t feel 100% comfortable in hotels, there is something that is too pretentious and fake in some of them, so it’s hard sometimes to feel good. But Hotel Hotel -and handful others I had the opportunity to visit in the past year- have this feeling that just makes you feel more than welcome, they make you feel at Home. A home away from home, basically what a nomad like me needs from time to time. On the second night I moved to a Creative Room which was equally beautifully designed with concrete walls and columns and work art and books all around. Both rooms had the largest king sized bed I have ever seen, dressed with the whitest and softer sheets ever and six (six!!) pillows. Little details like the French Press, Aesop bath products, vintage lamps, a granny-style rug on the bed, the last bestsellers next to the classics on the shelves are the ones I look for whenever I stay in a hotel. They are the little touches that make everything different and special.

You need to go and experience it first hand to understand what I am talking about, but I hope the pictures below will help a bit to give you an idea of what I mean.

You might think that I have spent the entire weekend in bed (which in fact I was really, really tempted to do), but my gorgeous luncheon and Canberra adventures were awaiting…(read more about my weekend in Canberra here or download my complete Canberra CREED guide here)

PERFECT FOR: a business, romantic or family stay
ADDRESS: NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra ACT 2601

WEBSITE: www.hotelhotel.com.au
INSTAGRAM: @hotel_hotel