The uniqueness of Matera and its “Sassi”

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Matera is one of the oldest cities in the world, in which life has been flowing uninterruptedly since prehistoric times.

A great jewel of southern Italy, it is also called City of the Sassi,” because of the ancient and characteristic districts, Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, carved out of the typical local rock, tuff, which is highly malleable and has allowed the growth of urban settlement in the historic part of the city.

Located in the Lucanian part of the Murgia, a vast rocky limestone plateau in Basilicata region, Matera overlooks the Gravina stream, a small watercourse that originates in Puglia, a neighboring region.

Throughout history, this stream has carved out the so-called “gravine,” natural canyons that go on to divide the Sassi from the Murgia Materana and Rock Churches Park.

The Rock Churches Park consists of a vast area rich in archaeological sites, including the aforementioned rock churches, of which there are more than 150. 

These places of worship testify to man’s evolutionary transition from prehistoric stages to Christianity and can still be visited today.

Why not take a moment of quiet contemplation and prayer inside them?

However, the city of Matera, becomes of relevant importance for its economic and cultural condition since 1800, a time when the town was in a condition of extreme poverty and in which the Sassi districts saw villagers and animals cohabiting, within the same dwelling, making the livability very difficult and unhealthy, protracted throughout the twentieth century, so much so that the city was renamed National Shame following complaints from high literati and politicians, who passing through the streets of the town, could not bear the sight of such indecency.

Thus began the displacement of the Sassi, which saw several decades of abandonment and degradation, until 1986, when a campaign of recovery, redevelopment and enhancement began, so that they were once again inhabited and finally recognized for their building ingenuity and water conservation system, in 1993, with a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

Today, Matera presents itself to the world as the flagship of southern Italy, as well as of the entire nation, a concrete example of social redemption.

The city exudes an inexhaustible source of culture.

In fact, Matera is also referred to as the “Jerusalem of the West,” as it is often chosen by film productions around the world as a location for their productions.

The local cuisine, too, is not to be outdone; genuine and delicious, it is based on the typical products of the peasant tradition of this land, and among the many delicacies of Matera gastronomy, it is impossible not to taste the magnificent and unique bread of Matera, recognized with the I.G.P. (Protected Geographical Indication) mark. 

Finally, on October 17, 2014 Matera achieved another very important recognition.

The city was designated to be European Capital of Culture in 2019, a historic achievement that represents the city’s definitive consecration as a place not to run away from, but one of which to be proud.

Immerse yourself too in Matera’s winding but fascinating history on our Abruzzo, Puglia and Matera tour.

You will not regret it!

Ready to experience Matera with us?

So if you’re tired of the same-old same-old city tours of Rome or Venice, why not experience the authentic Italy of Abruzzo, Puglia and Matera together?

Get in touch today to help bring your dream tour into focus – wouldn’t you love to see the Adriatic sea from the mountains or to have a lunch suspended over the sea? If you are ready to discover Matera, Italy with us, you can find all the details of our most popular tour at: The Abruzzo, Puglia & Matera experience.

And if you’re not quite ready to make an inquiry, sign up for our free email course to learn everything you need to know about planning a tour of Abruzzo and Puglia.

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