| Sufiyeh Hadian

Il Palazzotto Residence and Winery – A Cave Hotel of Wonders

In the ancient, hilly town of Matera in Sassi, Italy, lays a boutique cave hotel of wonders; the Il Palazzotto. For those searching for a unique and magical experience, this Relais and winery will not disappoint. Once a city of cave dwellers and the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in history, Matera dates back to the Palaeolithic period and has transformed into southern Italy’s best kept secret, a destination for romance and beauty.

The landscape and ancient stories are the effervescence of Matera; from the cave of original sin to the church Madonna de Idris. It is of such intrigue and religious fascination that Mel Gibson filmed ‘The Passion of the Christ’ in this little town in 2004. Visitors can still get a glimpse of Matera’s past on the other side of the ravine where the simplistic shapes of the Neolithic caves are still present from where people lived 7,000 years ago. Nowadays, the man-made limestone caves in town are now home to luxurious hotels, art galleries and restaurants, much like walking through a magical stone labyrinth. This is where Il Palazzotto is located.

This 16th century palazzotto was born from the imagination of local architect and designer Katia Vitale, who has an innate understanding of the caves’ inner-workings. The hotel lobby comprises of a very high fireplace, with stairs leading down to a dining area where a medieval table is set for guests’ breakfasts. Flickering candles and cosy lanterns make you feel at home as their shadows dance across the stone walls. Or perhaps I was just seeing things…

Amongst the cave theatre is a winery where guests can find a plethora of Il Palazzotto’s vintage finds to sip by the regal fireplace or on the beautiful terrace outside, looking up to the gracious Duomo (cathedral). Outside the lobby is where you’ll find 10 private suites, each with it’s own ethereal open-plan space of minimal interiors, a mix of ancient and modern. We particularly liked an unassuming white marble speaker; a natural way to listen to our music whilst wistfully dreaming in the freestanding bathtub.

Service is absolutely delightful in the Palazzotto, with a warm welcome and a box of Italian treats on arrival. We were also treated to a tour of Matera in a three-wheel Ape with an incredibly knowledgeable tour guide named Vito, who didn’t seem to mind at all when we kept asking to get off and take a sinful amount of selfies. When in Sassi…

Overall, Il Palazzotto is very much a religious experience; we lusted after the town landscapes, slothfully relaxed inside our beautiful cave suite, experienced gluttony first-hand with divine seafood and too many Italian carbs, and now have the photos to prove it with pride. And all without entering the cave of Original Sin…


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