Contemporary Sanctuary: The Hotel at Sextantio Grotte della Civita in Matera
Matera is the third most ancient city in the world, but until recently, it was a city that was “forgotten”. However, in the last twenty-five years or so, Matera has been experiencing something of a resurgence. In 1993, it was appointed a UNESCO World Site, and over the next twenty years, it saw a steady rise in tourism. Still yet, in 2019, it is set to be the fourth European Capital of Culture of Italian denomination, following Florence in 1986, Bologna in 2000 and Genoa in 2004.
Address: Via Civita, 28, 75100, Matera MT, Italy
In the wake of “reckless urban development policies” that undermined the authentic character of certain Southern Italian cities without consideration nor respect for their whereabouts, an Italian named Daniele Kihlgren saw opportunity to improve models of development. The idea? To establish a new paradigm for repurposing ancient quarters, with the mission of “restor[ing] dignity and respect” to otherwise forgotten locations and their culture, while being economically viable for both the promoting party and the territory at large.
The paradigm is exemplified in his hotels. In addition to being an entrepreneur, Kihlgren is a thinker, who had already turned around the fate of Santo Stefano di Sessiano, a town in Abbruzzo, by rescuing it and turning it into a covetable holiday spot that respects its context of creation. From there he named the hotel Sextantio "Albergo Diffuso", after the region’s Latin name, and the fact that the rooms were scattered about the city, a “diffused hotel”. The second iteration of Sextantio was built in Matera.
Matera’s ancient Sassi are Paleolithic rock, initially carved and inhabited by civilizations during the Bronze Age, then by monastic orders in the Middle Ages, and by peasants of subsequent civilizations. In the Civita, the oldest part of Matera made entirely of prehistoric cave dwellings, Kihlgren and a team of archeologists, artisans, architects and builders, converted them into rooms. The result is Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, a highly researched hotel with twenty rooms, a reception area and communal dining area that once served as a crypt. The idea behind the rooms is not to be trendy but rather timeless, focused on the universal, ancestral roots and emotions that such dwellings evoked then and still do.
"The idea behind the rooms is not to be trendy but rather timeless,
focused on the universal, ancestral roots and emotions
that such dwellings evoked then and still do."
Michele Centonze, Sextantio’s director of sales and marketing, tells us that Matera has gone from a city with a forgotten history to a city that is being reinvented. Sextantio suggests Matera’s mysterious character also has a lot of secrets.
By introducing new models like Kihlgren did, Matera’s age-old culture is highlighted, not obstructed. Hopefully, the paradigm he writes about will inspire a following in various parts of the world!
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