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This week, I’m thrilled to be finally making it to Matera, for the only European Festival dedicated to female fiction writers.

Everyone agrees that the Women’s Fiction Festival (WFF) is an extraordinary event. Run by ALLi member Elizabeth Jennings and her admirable team, it is unique in Europe in focusing exclusively on women’s writing and in combining the best of American writers’ conferences and Italian literary events.

And its location, Matera in the south of Italy, is also an extraordinary experience. Seventy years ago 15,000 of its people were still living in caves (sassi). Carved out of limestone, these dank dwellings with no natural light, ventilation, running water or electricity, had been in place since pre-historical times. They were primitive in the extreme: disease, including malaria, cholera and typhoid, was rampant.

Now Matera is one of those places that leapfrogged 20th-century development to launch itself straight into the 21st.

The sassi saw Matera dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage site and have become tourist attractions, with some even turned into charming hotels.

Tourism is booming. Over a quarter of Matera’s housing is on Airbnb, more than any other town in Italy.

And the town has become a cultural hotspot. Just look at this line up of events.

Little wonder that next year, Matera will be 2019’s European capital of culture.

While much of its grant money is trapped in the labyrinth that is Italian bureaucracy, a recent Guardian article reported on the high hopes that “Matera becoming a hi-tech hub as part of the next phase of its startling evolution. It is one of five Italian cities conducting tests for a 5G mobile network as part of an EU programme.”

I cannot wait to visit this extraordinary place and be part of the extraordinary Women’s Fiction Festival.

What about you? What are you up to in your creative business this week?

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