Against stiff competition from five other Italian cities, Matera (Basilicata) has won the bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2019. The jury, composed of thirteen members (six Italians and 7 of other nationalities) selected the City of Stones by seven votes to six.

Steve Green, a British researcher of cultural policy and President of the jury, praised the projects put forward by all six candidates, calling them: real true laboratories that can make culture, industry, creativity and the life of the town itself flourish.

Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, enjoined that no-one should talk about winners and losers. And that the initiatives elaborated by all six candidates would be carried forward in the next few years.

The victory was especially sweet for Matera, famous for its Sassi, the cave city immortalized in several films, such as Mel Gibson's

The Passion of Christ ,which less than seventy years ago was denounced as Italy's disgrace , due to the primitive living conditions of the inhabitants. Since then, Matera has been totally transformed. Many of the Sassi dwellings have been converted into bars, restaurants and comfortable, or even luxurious, hotels, where guests can have the thrill of sleeping in a renovated cave.

Matera is also listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites for its unique architecture and Byzantine rock churches.


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