Basilicata region of southern Italy, is an ancient town called Matera, known for its houses built in the rock called “Sassi”.
Sassi are carved into the rocky canyon walls created from what was once a large river which is now a small stream. These dwellings, like caves, are considered to be among the first human settlements in Italy, dating from the Paleolithic era. Estimates show that these “houses” were built about 9,000 years ago. Since then and until 1950, the caves were inhabited continuously.
- One of the oldest cities in the world
The first human settlements in the territory of Matera took advantage of numerous natural caves in the region defining the craggy landscape. Over time, we caves were dug into the rock to accommodate the entire population that was growing steadily. As the city grown, it has become a mixture of narrow alleys and stairs carved into the rock.
- You can have a glimpse of how people used to live
Until the twentieth century, Matera region was one of the poorest in Italy. There is no system of water supply, no sanitation, no electricity power plant or other facilities available. People lacked basic goods necessary because there were no shops. Their typical diet consists of bread, oil, crushed tomatoes and peppers. Many families actually lived with their animals in unsanitary conditions and favorable development of diseases, particularly malaria.
The extreme poverty of these people during Benito Mussolini’s fascist leadership was described in the book Italian doctor Carlo Levi, “Christ stopped at Eboli was.”
After World War II, the new government tried to move the townspeople from caves to modern housing, but many people refused to leave their homes. Finally, the government had to forcibly relocate residents in a new town situated on top of the cliff.
- European cultural capital in 2019
Matera’s fate changed after 1993, when UNESCO declared the Sassi of Matera and churches in caves as World Heritage Site, attracting a wave of curious tourists.
After this, many of the caves of Matera have been restored and transformed into comfortable houses, hotels, and restaurants.
- Amazing walk in a fascinating city
Today, it is possible to visit the original nucleus of Sassi, having houses carved into the rock and the tuff. A visit to this one-of-a-kind corner of the world will allow experiencing that unique feeling of being in a fairytale while being lost in southern Italy. So, today, the Sassi of Matera and their unique architecture represent a monumental attraction for millions of visitors coming from all over the world.
- Sleep in a cave hotel
There are small boutique hotels where you can enjoy the experience of a cave hotel.
Most of them are carefully restored using original natural stone, ancient timber, and antique furniture. Modern amenities have not been forgotten, and the rooms feature ingenious cooling and heating systems, specially created to eliminate humidity of these underground dwellings. The rooms are also equipped with Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.
In the same time, you will be in the middle of a unique location, set in an ancient city.