Translation and Excellence in Matera, Italy

Matera, capital of the Basilicata region in South East Italy from 1663 to 1806, is a place with fascinating culture and precarious topography. Hanging off and built into the cliffs, Matera is known as la Città Sotterranea (The Underground City), is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and, rightly so, a UNESCO world heritage site. Old it may be, but at the cutting edge of culture it remains, and in 2019 it will proudly take its place as European Capital of Culture.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days visiting Matera back in October 2016. I plunged myself in at the linguistic and geographical deep end by travelling all the way from the North West of England to the South East of Italy to join the ‘Translation and Excellence’ conference attended almost entirely by Italians and expatriates living in Italy.

I could not have had a better time exploring the city and delving into subjects ranging from “crap soup” (crab soup) on menus to the processes that go into translating and dubbing such a prominent television series as Game of Thrones (I may never have seen it but I found myself enthralled by the nuances of translating the scene in which the character Hodor finally has the origin of his name revealed). I found myself delighting in an Italian lunch that was bound to run over schedule (fill an underground restaurant with delicious Italian food and passionate linguists and you’ll see what I mean) and simultaneously envious of some of the speakers who translate for Disney.

The conference itself could not have been in a more fitting setting; the Casa Cava, a huge underground cavern with excellent acoustics. It was once used as an excavation site to mine the stone to build the houses around it and has now taken on a life of its own, home to art exhibitions, concerts, conferences and other cultural events.

Given that Matera features as my website image it seems only fitting that my first blog post be about this intriguing city. I’d highly recommend a visit, conference or no conference. Perhaps you’ll even decide to top your trip off with a few days at the beach like I did? After soaking up all that culture it would be rude not to!

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