Welcome to Matera, a city in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy with a history dating back to the Palaeolithic era. Matera is renowned for its unique rock-cut urban core, the Sassi, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sassi consists of around twelve levels spanning the height of 380 m, connected by a network of paths, stairways, and courtyards. Initially, Matera was a complex of cave habitations excavated on the gorge’s western, Lucanian face, and it took advantage of two streams that flow into the ravine from a spot near the Castello Tramontano, reducing the cliffs’ angle of drop and leaving a narrow defensible promontory in between. The central high ground, supporting the city’s cathedral and administrative buildings, came to be known as Civita, and the settlement districts scaling down and burrowing into the sheer rock faces as the Sassi. The medieval city clinging to the edge of the canyon for its defense is invisible from the western approach. The tripartite urban structure of Civita and the two Sassi, relatively isolated from each other, survived until the 16th century when the center of public life moved outside the walls to the Piazza Sedile in the open plain (the Piano) to the west, followed by the shift of the elite residences to the Piano from the 17th century onwards. By the end of the 18th century, a physical class boundary separated the overcrowded Sassi of the peasants from the new spatial order of their social superiors in the Piano, and geographical elevation came to coincide with status more overtly than before, to the point where the two communities no longer interacted socially. But it was only at the turn of the 20th century that the Sassi were declared unfit for modern habitation, and the government relocated all their inhabitants to new housing in the Piano between 1952 and the 1970s. A new law in 1986 opened the path to restoration and reoccupation of the Sassi, and the recognition of the Sassi, labeled la città sotterranea (the underground city), together with the rupestrian churches across the Gravina as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1993 has accelerated the reclaiming of the site. Matera was declared a European Capital of Culture in 2019. In addition to the Sassi, Matera preserves a large and diverse collection of buildings related to the Christian faith, including a large number of rupestrian churches, such as San Pietro Caveoso and San Pietro Barisano, and Matera Cathedral. Visitors can also explore the city’s cisterns and systems of water channels, which collected rainwater that was filtered and flowed in a controlled manner. Matera has become a picturesque tourist attraction, and there are many thriving businesses, pubs, and hotels in the Sassi and the surrounding area. Come and discover the fascinating history and unique beauty of Matera, a city unlike any other.

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