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Architects: Manca Studio; Hotel in Matera; Photo: Pierangelo Laterza

Deep relaxation in the grotto: Hotel in Matera

Hotel La Dimora di Metello has a unique setting, being located in Sasso Barisano, an area in the old quarter of Matera with houses carved out of rock. The respective cave dwellings began serving as habitations as long ago as 7000 B.C., but in the last century fell into disrepute due to the poverty of their inhabitants and the unhealthy conditions involved. The days of relocation to urban areas are over, however, and the region of which Matera is part is gradually discovering how its merits can be marketed to tourists to generate income.

This is how it came to pass that Manca Studio was commissioned to convert one of the cave dwellings into a hotel. Working in collaboration with experienced construction workers and using a design concept that forms a balance between the rough rock walls and modern furnishings, the architects have created an inviting but elegant hostelry on 300 square metres of space.

All the rooms are located on a single level and begin with a reception space that leads over to the breakfast area deeper inside. This in turn marks the start of an access passageway along which the individual bedrooms – four altogether – are lined up at the rear side of the structure. Each has own doorway to the terrace and is thus provided a source of daylight. The hotel's spa is literally carved into the rock, as are also the en-suite bathrooms, each featuring a free-standing bathtub set in its own small grotto-like space.

High vaulted arches predominate in the rooms, executed in pale sedimentary rock that is often called »tufo« in Matera because of its porous character, which is reminiscent of tuff. Occasionally the rock and masonry work give way to rendered wall surfaces, and it is these that are responsible for the spick and span impression that the hotel makes – after all, visitors are not to have the feeling of creeping into a dark hole in the ground. Rather, its interior spaces benefit from the feeling of intimacy, cosiness and privacy created by the thick walls, while the smooth white plaster sections provide ideal surfaces for doors, bathroom installations and furnishing items.  

The furniture throughout the hotel complements the natural stone in colour, with mainly earthy tones and natural, untreated materials finding use in La Dimora di Metello. Pale oak harmonises with leather and Corten steel, while in the grotto-like spaces deeper in the rock, extensive use has been made of glass for a mood of lightness and contemporary elegance. A number of the walls in the entrance area are even entirely clad in mirrors to draw the precious sunlight into the depths of the public areas. Encompassing the smallest of details, the coherent design is sure to have tourists wanting to spend the night at a place where people were already living 9,000 years ago.

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