Italian Architects Transform Ancient Cave Into a Modern Oasis

The caves of Matera, also known as sassi, are located in southern Italy and have been used since Paleolithic times, when inhabitants began carving out the soft stone to create homes. Tasked with the challenge of creating a warm, inviting interior with a modern feel, local architecture firm Manca Studio, run by brother-sister duo Alfredo and Marina, expertly blended the historic and contemporary for the La Dimora di Metello Hotel. In their first hotel project, they have embraced the curves of the space, creating four cozy suites, a common area, terrace, and spa spread over 3,200 square feet.

The warm stone walls in the bedrooms hug visitors, giving a sense of security and warmth without feeling claustrophobic. The architects used white walls to divide the space, but maximize natural light, somehow managing to create light and bright interiors—something one would think impossible in a cave setting. Additionally, the interior design, which boasts mostly custom furniture in pale oak, enhances the earthy feel of the space.

Since their designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, Matera's caves have become a modern study in how to revitalize a space. After their original use as troglodyte dwellings, the caves were almost continuously inhabited until the 1980s, when they fell out of fashion. More recently, a great effort has been made to transform the caves into hotels, restaurants, and cultural centers. Demonstrating a keen ability to pay respect to the past while embracing modernity, the designers allowed the rough texture of the original tuff walls—stone made of volcanic ash—to flow into the smooth, white Italian plaster. The soaker tub, tucked into a low niche, allows guests to relax in a grotto-like ambience, proving that it's possible to stay in a cave while enjoy modern luxury.

Manca Studio: Website
La Dimora di Metello: Website | Facebook
via [Contemporist, Interior Design]

All images via Pierangelo Laterza.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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