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A Virtual Trip to Matera with Imma Tataranni 

July 27, 2020
Imma Tataranni review

If you’re missing travel to Italy, take a virtual trip to Matera with Imma Tataranni…

The European Union (EU) anointed Matera, Italy the coveted title of “European Capital of Culture” in 2019, raising the city’s profile around the world. For many of us hooked on the engaging Italian TV series, Imma Tataranni: Sostituto Procuratore, the show’s protagonist, Imma Tataranni (played by Vanessa Scalera) might be considered one of the region’s ambassadors of “pop culture.”

This mystery series with a comic twist streams on MHz Choice. The storyline follows the life and work of Imma Tataranni, a deputy public prosecutor in Matera.

Matera: The City of Imma Tataranni

Matera: The City of Imma Tataranni (Credit: Andrew Levine)

Vanessa Scalera as Imma Tataranni (Credit: MHz Choice)

An unconventional character in many respects, Imma is a strong woman working in a male-dominated occupation. Her over-the-top attire verges on provocative: She typically wears high platform heels, short skirts, oversized dangling earrings and glitzy sweaters made of beg-me-to-touch fabrics. Despite her stereotypical appearance, she is strident in her approach to solving crime, highly intuitive and fearless. Her encyclopedic memory often supplants the need for the town’s archives.

As viewers follow Imma’s adventures, they gain insights into the foods, traditions and lifestyles of the region.

Visiting Matera

Matera: A European Capital of Culture

Matera: A European Capital of Culture (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Matera is the scene stealer in this series, especially in the breathtaking aerial photography. The show takes viewers to Matera and Potenza, the two provinces that make up the region of Basilicata. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, Matera is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and, probably, one of the most architecturally and geographically interesting.

Located in southern Italy towards the heel of the “boot” (on the border of Puglia), the city is known for its scenic landscapes, winding roads, and ancient cave dwellings (called sassi) that look as if they are terraced into the layered rocks that rise above a steep canyon.

Ancient sassi of Matera

Ancient sassi of Matera (Credit: Jerome Levine)

The caves, dug out of volcanic limestone (called tufa), once housed farmers and shepherds. Over time, these caves deteriorated into slums, housing impoverished citizens who lived in dwellings with earthen floors and no electricity or running water. It wasn’t until 1952, that the Italian government resettled the nearly 15,000 inhabitants out of this substandard housing.

Instead of bringing witnesses to her office in the municipal building, Imma often visits characters at their homes in the historic center of Matera as well as in and around the small villages that dot the surrounding countryside.

Winding street in the historic center of Matera

Winding street in the historic center of Matera (Credit: Jerome Levine)

A street in the historic center of Matera

Another street in the historic center (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Viewers get to see authentic glimpses of this magical region that blends old and new. For example, in one episode, Imma and her husband attend a concert at the magnificent Casa Cava, an ancient cave in Matera, once a quarry, that now houses concerts. 

Al Calderaio, a bronze sculpture of a boilermaker

Al Calderaio, a bronze sculpture of a boilermaker, a monument to the makers of copper pots (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Movie buffs may recognize Matera as the setting where Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ.”  More recently, chase scenes from the soon-to-be-released James Bond flick, No Time To Die with Daniel Craig were also filmed there.

A family drama, too

Like many modern women, Imma Tataranni juggles a home life with her career. She is married to Pietro De Ruggeri (played by Massimiliano Gallo), a doting husband who is continually trying to assuage his wife’s stress. Although I’m not clear about his occupation, he does seem to have far more spare time than his wife. in addition to doing a lion’s share of cooking and parenting in the home, he has downtime to practice the saxophone. 

The couple’s teenage daughter, Valentina (played by Alice Azzariti), an only child, is going through the angst of adolescence, seeking to become more independent and define herself and her friendships. The relationship between mother and daughter gets feisty at times.

Imma Tataranni, also an only child, has the added responsibility of overseeing elder care for her aging mom, who suffers from dementia. Her somewhat meddling in-laws seem to pop in too often, always reminding Imma of their higher social class.  

Although Imma is in love with her lusty husband, you wonder if she may be a bit of a cougar. She often has eyes for–and dreams about–her young, shy, and very handsome assistant, Corporal Calogiuiri (played by Alessio Lapice) who seems to be able to enhance her mood in a heartbeat.

Vanessa Scalera and Alessio Lapice

Vanessa Scalera and Alessio Lapice (Credit: MHz Choice)

Much of the family drama often takes place around the dinner table, showcasing regional recipes.

CUTTING BOARD OF PORCHETTA LUCANA

Cutting board of Porchetta Lucana at Fedda Rossa in Matera (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Other characters round out the ensemble cast, including Imma’s less than efficient assistant, Diana, a high school chum; her straight-laced boss, Alessandro Vitali; and Saverio Romaniello (played by Cesare Bocci, aka Mimi Augello in Detective Montalbano), a sketchy businessman who seems to always be angling behind the scenes.

Cesare Bocci and Vanessa Scalera

Cesare Bocci and Vanessa Scalera (Credit: MHz Choice)

This well-acted, made-for-TV show is based on a detective series by Italian writer, Mariolina Venice, who hails from Basilicata. Some people have called the series a “female Montalbano.” While it is of a somewhat similar genre (mystery-comedy) and is also set in an appealing Southern Italy  locale, Imma Tataranni really deserves to be seen and appreciated in its own right. The stories don’t have the same depth and complexity as those written by Andrea Camilleri but are still quite entertaining.

Perhaps, Imma Tataranni is best appreciated as the perfect Italian dessert course after you’ve finished the 36 episodes of Detective Montalbano. After watching the first four episodes, I am yearning to return to Matera.


In Italian with English subtitles, each of the six episodes of Season 1 are about two hours long. First released in Italy in 2019, the episodes began airing on MHz Choice in June 2020. Rumor has it that Imma Tataranni has been renewed for a second season. Get ready to pack your bags for the trip!

Vanessa Scalera at Imma Tataranni

Vanessa Scalera as Imma Tataranni (Credit MHz Choice)


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  • Reply
    Jeff & Crystal Bryant
    July 28, 2020 at 11:09 am

    It’s sad that these days our travel options are becoming so limited. I guess we should consider ourselves fortunate to have have virtual travel. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    July 28, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Thx for this fascinating post. It has introduced me to Matera. I’ve bookmarked it for my next trip to Italy.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 28, 2020 at 8:13 pm

      Matera is an amazing city. You won’t be disappointed!

  • Reply
    noel morata
    July 29, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit this Unesco city, hopefully I will get a chance to see this in person once w are allowed to travel to Italy again some day.

  • Reply
    Laurie Nelson
    July 29, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    We’ve loved Imma and can’t wait for the next season! Great article and background on Imma and Matera. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Jackie K Smith
    July 30, 2020 at 7:05 am

    It looks like a great place to visit (but then where in Italy isn’t, right?) And thanks for the introduction to this television series. Doubtful we could get it here, but maybe on a visit to the States I will try to track it down. . .of course pigs may be flying before I ever get back to the states!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 30, 2020 at 7:40 am

      Hope you get to see the series in Greece. I just watched the last episode of the season and was blown away! Great drama!

  • Reply
    Judy Freedman
    July 30, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    This post about Matera is making me miss Italy even more. How do you get that channel? Is it subtitles? I’d love to watch that show.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 30, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      Here is the link to MHz Choice: https://watch.mhzchoice.com/
      You can sign up for a free trial.
      Yes, the series is subtitled but it’s wonderful to listen to it in Italian, too! I’ve picked up a few new words!

  • Reply
    James
    July 31, 2020 at 1:07 am

    I have to respectfully disagree with your conclusion that “The stories don’t have the same depth and complexity as those written by Andrea Camilleri but are still quite entertaining.” Personally I enjoyed this show more than Montalbano (which is also an excellent show). I think this show has more depth, especially in terms of the development of characters. The characters in Montalbano are fairly static and there is not really any ongoing storyline connecting the episodes. This show is not only a first rate who-done-it but highlights the internal feelings and drama of the main character far more than Montalbano.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 31, 2020 at 7:51 am

      I do agree that they are pretty damn good:-) Just my personal take!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    July 31, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    This Italian TV series sounds intriguing. I always enjoy a movie or TV series that is set in an interesting location. I’ve found that in a good one, I spend so much time looking at the background that I miss some of the action and story and have to watch it again.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      August 1, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Imma Tataranni certainly fits the bill of offering a great setting!

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