Hotel Basiliani in the ancient town of Matera, in Basilicata, in southern Italy, is a real modern jaw dropper, built into the rocks of the Sassi.

I’ve been intrigued by Matera for a long time – as a child I was fascinated by these dwellings in the rocks that were abandoned in the 1950s. Then Mel Gibson came along with his film “The Passion of The Christ” – and all I was interested in was ethereal scenery as much of it was filmed in & around Matera. We’d planned on a one day/night stop-over on the way from Tarsia in Calabria to Alberobello, and so wanted somewhere a bit different, but that again wasn’t silly money. The old default search of “boutique hotel in …” brought up Hotel Basiliani – but a quick glance at the gallery of images made me think that this particular boutique hotel would be waaaaay out of our budget. As with a lot of things in Italy, sometimes the perception of something is much more expensive than the reality – and a quick search on booking.com threw up the most incredible apartment. For just over 80 euros. We booked there & then…

When we arrived, we were blown away, by the setting. The car had to be parked up and off we set, on foot, along the cobbled road, winding higher and higher up through the cave dwellings. I’ve honestly not been anywhere quite like it and was certainly unprepared for the hotel…

Where past and present merge in perfect harmony…

The hotel is a series of apartments, built into the rocks. Although it was early October, it was still very warm in Matera, but once inside, the natural air conditioning kicked in. The hotel is described as a “design hotel” and oh my word, it is. Attention to comtemporary detail is incredible – once inside the “cave”, we discovered our apartment to be spacious, light, cool and so wonderfully tastefully and understatedly furnished. Bare whitewashed walls contrasted with chocolate brown floor tiles and red furniture accents. Well thought out lighting accentuated the space beautifully. After a few days on the road, a deep sumptuous bath was most welcome too! And, as if to put the icing on the cake, a monumental thunder & lightning storm – but no rain – illuminating the re-inhabited rock dwellings…

The furniture was understated and simple – a thick double mattress, on top of an exposed slatted base, with thick covers – which were needed in the night as the temperature inside our cave room dropped. Seating was extremely unusual – the sofas and large square footstools, were constructed from what seemed like inflated plastic with soft internal lighting. Sounds mad – and it should be – but it worked. The sofas were very forgiving, even without cushions – and I think generally that a sofa without cushions is a crime. Soft and comfortable and definitely something to curl up in. I loved the idea of them being softly lit up too…

Even though this design hotel takes a very modern approach to the minimalist furnishings, the internal rough walls – now all painted white – and the arches and domed ceilings, do remind you that this used to be a cave dwelling. A dwelling that would have had no running water, no electricity, no comforts.  2013-12-12_0003 2013-12-12_0004 2013-12-12_0005Each of the rooms/suites has an individual entrance, with an outside area, so you do get a real sense of space and tranquility.

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The communal areas of the hotel are tranquil and beautiful. Like our well chamber at home, the reception desk – a simple red desk – sits on top of a reinforced glass cover. And, like our house, the rough walls have been painted white to bring in light and create a sense of space.

This hotel will remain in my memory for a very long time – not only because it is so elegant and restored so sympathetically, but also because it is in the magical Sassi of Matera.

Hotel Basiliani, Rione Casalnuovo, 115, 75100, Matera, Matera, Basilicata, ITALY.