Study Buddy (Challenger): Matera – the city in new James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ – is ‘Shame of Italy’ no more

  • Study Buddy Challenger is for students who want to take their understanding to the next level with more difficult vocabulary and questions that will test their inference skills
  • Check your reading comprehension using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
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Even before being featured in the latest James Bond film, Madera had already begun leaving behind its past reputation as the “Shame of Italy”

Content provided by British Council

Read the following text and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] When James Bond did a death-defying motorcycle jump for No Time to Die in front of the cave home where her ancestors had lived for centuries, Dora Cappiello rushed to tell her 92-year-old father. “One of the most spectacular scenes for the film was shot outside the place where my father was born,” she said, proudly.

[2] Matera – clinging to a craggy hillside above a barren landscape in southern Italy – is one of the last places Daniel Craig would be greeted with the words: “We’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond.” Matera has been home to cave dwellers for 9,000 years and is the site of the country’s first-known human habitation. In the 1950s, it was labelled “the Shame of Italy”, when its residents were found living in shockingly backward and unsanitary conditions. Some 15,000 people lived in the cave homes, with livestock and families squeezed into cramped spaces without water, natural light or electricity.

[3] Matera became a byword for poverty, infant mortality and medieval levels of disease. Residents of the old city – called the Sassi, from the Italian word for stone – were hurriedly evacuated to a bland and functional new city centre of modern residential blocks a mile away. Abandoned, the Sassi became a ghost town of vagrants, fugitives and prowling packs of wolves, with many relocated residents too ashamed to ever return.

[4] Yet a new generation of younger evacuees with different ideas rebelled against the indifferent tide of history sweeping over the Sassi. In the 1990s, the stirrings of a tentative revival began as cave homes were renovated to become cafes and boutique hotels. That transformation gathered pace as tourists flooded in following the filming of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in Matera in 2004. Now, the rehabilitation of the city has been supercharged by its starring role in one of the biggest films of 2021.

[5] The international profile of Matera could scarcely be further removed from its image a century ago, when it was chosen as a place of internal exile for political prisoners under Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime. Fast forward 75 years, and Matera is a European Capital of Culture and one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches stories in global tourism. It is also probably the only city in Europe where you can book a room first occupied by humans 9,000 years ago. The ravine around the old city is dotted with 1,500 cave dwellings dating to the Palaeolithic era, while an intricate network of underground cisterns has been found.

[6] Today, the people of Matera take pride in the Sassi and its history in a way that was unthinkable when Cappiello was a child. Cappiello left Matera to work in Rome, Madrid and elsewhere overseas, but her heart remained in the Sassi. “The first families started returning in the 1990s – not poor families but professionals: doctors, engineers and architects,” she recalled. She returned 20 years ago to enter the tourism industry.

[7] “It was only a dream because we didn’t have many tourists,” she said. “Matera was completely unknown even to Italians ... The first change came with the Mel Gibson film. Then Matera became even better known because it was made [a] European Capital of Culture. Now it is becoming really popular. For my generation, this is a big opportunity.”
Source: South China Morning Post, September 30


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. Which of the following best describes what Cappiello thought about the filming of No Time to Die near her ancestral home in paragraph 1?
A. aggravating
B. exciting
C. dramatic
D. incomprehensible

2. According to paragraph 2, was the environment in which Matera’s residents lived in the 1950s considered typical by the country’s government at the time, and why? (2 marks)

3. What sort of accommodation were Matera’s residents relocated to according to paragraph 3?

4. Which word best describes the pace of the Sassi’s renewal in the 1990s in paragraph 4?
A. gradual
B. immediate
C. irksome
D. tedious

5. What does “one of the biggest films of 2021” in paragraph 4 refer to?

6. Based on your understanding of paragraph 5, why was Matera chosen as a European Capital of Culture?

7. In paragraph 6, Cappiello lists some of the jobs of those who moved into the Sassi in the 1990s. What does this suggest about the town?
A. Its new status as a trendy area has proved to be well-received by low-income individuals who are looking for cheap accommodation.
B. Its living conditions have vastly improved to the extent that professionals are willing to live in it.
C. Its incredible history has attracted skilled workers to return to the town despite the dreadful conditions.
D. none of the above

8. Decide if the following statements about Matera are True, False or Not Given in the text. (4 marks)
(i) The town had previously been used to hold prisoners.
(ii) It was so notorious that even the homeless avoided it.
(iii) Previous inhabitants who lived there in the 1950s might have had to use candles at home during the day.
(iv) After the town’s transformation, more than half of the original residents have returned.

9. Which of the following best describes the tone of this text?
A. persuasive
B. argumentative
C. expository
D. descriptive

Daniel Craig plays James Bond one last time in ‘No Time to Die’. Photo: United Artists


1. B
2. No, because Matera was labelled the “Shame of Italy”, and its residents were said to be living in shockingly backward and unsanitary conditions.
3. a new city centre of modern residential blocks
4. A
5. No Time to Die
6. It features natural-historical attractions including cave dwellings that were first occupied by humans 9,000 years ago and an intricate network of underground cisterns.
7. B
8. (i) T; (ii) F; (iii) T; (iv) NG
9. D

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