From shame to fame: Matera’s fame has increased when it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1993, attracting many inhabitants to return back into the caves. Today, many buildings in the Sassi have been restored and transformed into cosy abodes, restaurants and swish cave-hotels. The Sassi originated from small inhabited settlements that developed around several places of worship, beyond the boundaries of the ancient defensive walls of the Civita, which is the oldest institutional, religious and commercial district.The Civita divides the two Sassi areas: the Sasso Caveoso, mostly made up of cave-houses, and the Sasso Barisano, which is largely formed by traditional houses, built using more complex building techniques. Everything in Matera starts with its caves. Two natural amphitheatres entirely carved out of the rock: the ‘Sasso Barisano’, to the north-west, and the ‘Sasso Caveoso’, to the south. The ‘Civita’ district, which is the oldest inhabited group of buildings, dominates on the ‘Sassi. Matera, also known as ‘Città dei Sassi’ (City of Stone) will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture. At first sight, a Matera tour through the sassi, appear as a jumble of faded stone huts where narrow alleys and stairways lead somewhere and streets are sometimes rooftops, but behind the house like facades are simple caves, inhabited since Paleolithic times. The sassi of Matera tell a tale of poverty, hardship. Inside the cave dwellings, large families lived alongside their livestock and, even as late as the 1950s, without electricity or sewage.The city’s history is best immortalised in writer Carlo Levi’s revealing book, Christ stopped at Eboli (published in 1945). Matera offers some unique scenery, an emotional and cultural landscape with multiple levels built over time. Through the alleys of the Sassi of Matera means living a unique emotion, breathing the history of Southern Italy. Visit Matera to have a memory in the soul!
The second day of our Exclusive Tour in Basilicata is dedicated to the Sassi of Matera.