Italian city where “The Passion” was filmed becoming popular attraction

.- The city of Matera in southern Italy, where Mel Gibson filmed “The Passion of the Christ,” has become a popular international tourist attraction, with travel agencies organizing “Passion Tours” to relive the movie about the last twelve hours of the life of Christ.

With it’s stone houses that are reminiscent of old Jerusalem, Matera was inscribed in 1993 as part of the Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, but the images of “The Passion,” which were filmed in the churches, parks and streets, have given the city a new impulse.

The city government is designing a tourist route that will be indicated by signs and markers, pointing to the places where scenes from Gibson’s movie were filmed.

Travel agencies have begun offering trips to the city for a day or a weekend to show off the city’s beauty and the places where the most important scenes were shot.

“We will visit the sites for some of the film’s scenes, such as the market, the doors of Jerusalem the Upper Room and the home of Mary.  We will walk the same streets where the actors walked,” reads a program from one Italian travel agency.

Gianni Magariello, Matera’s tourism adviser, said the city has reached an agreement with Icon Productions for the use of images from the film.  “We’re not the ones who have asked people to come to Matera, the people have asked us if they can visit,” he said.

Requests are coming mainly from North American and Australian tourists, as well as from Japanese tourists, who have found out about Matera from several websites that offer trips to the city.

One guided tour called, The “Passion Tour,” will cost between $7 and $12, while a weekend stay would run between $90 and $160.

In Matera one can walk the Via Muro, where the way of the Cross was filmed, visit the Church of Our Lady of Virtues, where the Last Supper was filmed, or peek over the Gravina cliff, which served as Mount Calvary and where city officials are considering erecting three crosses.

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