Architect Simone Michele designs a welcoming new hotel and spa in UNESCO-protected Matera, Italy.
“One of the greatest luxuries we have today is the ability to reinterpret the past with a futuristic view,” declares Simone Micheli, the architect responsible for the interior spaces and lighting at the recently opened Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa in Italy. And he should know: His latest project calls one of the country’s oldest and most storied communities – Matera, in the southern Basilicata region – home.
Comprising a hotel, spa, indoor swimming pool and restaurant, Aquatio sits within the city’s ancient sassi cave dwellings. Thought to be one of the earliest continuously inhabited places on earth, the sassi network of cliffside homes is burrowed deep into a soft white calcarenitic rock known locally as tufo. Residents were moved out of the caves en masse in the 1950s for hygienic reasons, but recently Matera has seen architects and entrepreneurs – spurred on by its designation as a 2019 European Capital of Culture and an expected tourism boom – reimagine and repopulate the historic city.
“I introduced simple elements that perfectly integrate with the environment,” Micheli says of the hotel’s design. As much of the project is embedded in stone, ventilation and humidity were a major concern when it came to the bathrooms. Multiple vents to the surface were installed to enable passive ventilation, while the bathroom fixtures, most of which were custom designed by Micheli, were kept deliberately minimal – a design choice, he adds, that “exalted the spirit of the ancient place.”