Matera

Matera
Photo by Els Slots.

The Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera are the best surviving and most complete examples of rock-cut settlements in the Mediterranean region.

The caves in this belt of soft tufa have been used since prehistoric times. At first, people lived in bare caves, later these developed into house-like structures and the settlements were enriched with workshops, churches, monasteries and hermitages.

Community Perspective: Matera has been featured in many books and films for its remarkable scenery and poor living conditions. Clyde has summarized nicely what to see and do here nowadays.

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Community Reviews

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Tom Livesey

United Kingdom - 04-Nov-15 -

Matera will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019, a title that has previously been held by that other World Heritage Site, Liverpool – although the two could hardly be more different.

My visit was in August 2015, after a pretty unexciting trip to Castel del Monte. Matera was by contrast a refreshingly interesting WHS. Nowadays tourists can stay in converted Sassi and others are shops or restaurants, but most stand empty, making the district quite eery when you find yourself in a quiet area.

There are numerous small churches and preserved dwellings you can go in to, but they all charge a separate entry fee – so visiting them all would be costly. We found the rock-hewn Church of the Madonna delle Virtù and its connected monastery particularly worth visiting, as well as the church of Santa Maria de Idris in the Monterrone outcrop. We also enjoyed a large platter of typical Basilicata food (all kinds of vegetables and cheeses).

Water was not in short supply on the day we visited – at least, not in the vicinity. As you can see behind me, there was an ominously grey sky, which – although it didn’t rain on Matera – shot out thunderbolts in a manner that made it feel pretty Biblical.


Clyde

Malta - 10-Jun-14 -

Matera by Clyde

I visited this WHS in June 2014. I spent 2 days here and I got to visit both main Sassi areas (Sasso Caveoso has more to offer) as well as a number of Rupestrian Churches and cave homes. The best views of the Sassi and Matera in general are the Belvedere just opposite (some 6km away by car) and the view from the Convicinio di Sant'Antonio. The combined ticket that gives you access to all the Rupestrian Churches costs 7 euros and all are definitely worth a visit. However, my personal highlight was the Santa Lucia alle Malve with its beautiful frescoes and engravings. Flash photography is strictly not allowed and when there are several groups no photos are allowed to avoid waiting times. The caves opposite Matera (near the Belvedere) are worth a hike mostly for birdwatching (mostly swifts and lesser kestrels) and to enjoy the flora and different butterfly species. However, some of them are painted with frescoes and the best one is Madonna delle Tre Porte (marked 102 in the orange hiking trail). There are a couple of cave homes that you can visit to try to imagine what it must have been like to live in such conditions.


Kat Courtland

USA - 19-Nov-13 -

I discovered Matera when researching "things to Do" from one of my upcoming cruise ports, Bari, Italy. I fell in love with the photos and the stories about this area and also the unique town of Alberobello nearby. Indeed, this was my favorite stop of 12 on a fabulous cruise from Venice to Rome, and one of my favorite stops in Italy, which is my favorite country so far out of almost 60 I have visited. I contracted with "Tours of Pugilia" to meet us at our ship for a full, informative day with lots of walking. The guide knew everything from exported products to history from thousands of years. The broken AC on the bus and attitude of the bus driver was not as excellent. The tour price seemed a bit high, around 70 euro per person with a dozen people, but the tour was worth it. Arriving at Matera early before any other tourists was just magical. We enjoyed the tour of the Sassi cave home museum and bought a local fertility whistle for a prewedding gift for our son. A local man serenaded us with his singing to his accordian music and although Matera seemed mostly deserted, the feel of history and the impression of time standing still was palpable in this inspiring setting. I wish we had time to dine or stay the night in Matera, but the memory of visiting this unique, magical place will remain one of my top travel experiences.


Odette Portelli Taliana

MALTA - 03-Jul-11 -

The first time i visited Matera was in the year 1975, I was part of a group of youngsters from the island of Malta and we had come to Matera as a part of a work camp. We stayed in Matera for 3 weeks, it was an amazing experienc, In those days few people lived in i Sassi as many people had left to live in upper Matera where the houses were more modern. I visited Matera again in 1988 and i could notice that a great improvement had been done to the Sassi, I am planning a visit to Matera and would really love to stay in a cave hotel,I am looking foward to seeing Matera again after all these years!


Els Slots

The Netherlands - 04-Jan-05 -

Matera by Els Slots

I had read "Christ stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi in preparation for this trip. This classic describes the poor living standards and the neglect of the people in Basilicata, during the author's exile to the area in the 1930s. There's only a short passage specifically about the Sassi in Matera. However, it indicates that the conditions there were even worse than in the surrounding countryside.

What to expect in the year 2005? I had prepared myself for some gloomy rocks, with small passages between them. But it's quite different from that: the Sassi overlook an impressive canyon, and a wide panoramic road encircles the quarters.

In one of the houses, you can also have a look inside. It doesn't look too bad at first sight - but you have to bear in mind that this one is now cleaned every day, the horse standing in the corner is not a live one and sharing the room with 18 family members is quite crowded. Besides poverty, malaria was also a big problem for the inhabitants.


Klaus Freisinger

Austria -

The sassi of Matera are one of the major tourist attractions of southern Italy, and much has been written about the houses and the poor quality of life of the people who lived there. Much more amazing in my opinion are the stunning location and the beautiful views one can enjoy from several places in and around Matera. The place has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and you can definitely feel the history of the place when you stand above the huge canyon and see the houses and churches hewn into the rock. No wonder Mel Gibson came here to film The Passion of the Christ.


Mary Gaudente

Canada -

I visited I Sassi di Matera in the summer of 2001. What words can I possibly use to describe it? Breath-taking, remarkable, awe-inspiring. I felt as if I stepped back into time hundreds or even thousands of years. It's the type of place where you feel the presence of history under your feet. As I walked in and around the stone houses and beautiful churches it was not very difficult for me to imagine how this rich culture lived. The stone streets and simple white houses allowed me to take that spiritual trip back into time. I felt as if at any moment, a Roman soldier or peasant woman would come around the corner. It's that kind of place. I walked in with an appreciation of my Italian heritage....and I walked out with a strong, deep-rooted love for it.


Site Info

Full Name
The Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera
Unesco ID
670
Country
Italy
Inscribed
1993
Type
Cultural
Criteria
3 4 5
Categories
Urban landscape - Urban continuity
Link
By ID

Site History

2007 Name change

From "I Sassi di Matera" to "The Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera"

1993 Inscribed

Locations

The site has 1 locations

Matera

Visitors

Community Members have visited.

A. Mehmet Haksever AC Ah2409 Airpunk Alberto Peterle Alessandro Alessandro Votta Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Alfons and Riki Verstraeten Ali Zingstra Alicemears Allison Vies Ammon Watkins Amy Tull Andrew Wembridge Anja Anna Wludarska Argentique Argo Arianna Aspasia Astraftis Atila Ege Bazikoln Bin Bori Sári Brendan Carroll Brigitte Huber Butterflybird Carlo.bergonzini Carstenhansen CeeMon Celiabc_87@icloud.com Cezar Grozavu Chenboada Chenqtao Cheryl Chinmaya Christian Wagner Christoph Claire Bradshaw ClaireWhiteley Clyde Cmtcosta Col Coppi Corinne Vail Courtneyfleming Craig Harder Cristina Erba CugelVance Cutiecuscrisori@yaho CyBeRr Dan Pettigrew Dani Cyr Daniel C-Hazard David Aaronson & Melanie Stowell David Berlanda David Marton DeJenerate Deffra DennisNL87 Dibro Dimitar Krastev Dimitrios Polychronopoulos Donald M Parrish Jr Doubanjiang Elia Vettorato Els Slots Enrico Cerrini Eva Kisgyorgy Fabi-ddorf Fabian Teusch Fan Yibo Farinelli Fedekiwi Federico P. Feldhase Femke Roos Filip Murlak Filipacfa Fkarpfinger Flexiear Fmaiolo@yahoo.com Fmannucci Fool79 Frank Britton G.L. Ingraham Gaiacanadese@gmail.com Garellos Geo.Mav GeorgeIng61 Gernot Gi Gianni Bianchini GiuliaCh Giulio25 Grimloch Gwythyr Hadrianus Harald T. HaraldOest Harry Mitsidis Hdimoshi Homadism Hubert Iain Jackson Ivan Rucek J. Stevens JBTOR Jaakkotoivanen Jakob Frenzel Jana and Matt Janina Lehmann Janis Jbaker0811 Jcendres2 Jeankedezeehond Jeanne OGrady Jezza JobStopar Joel on the Road John booth Jon Eshuijs Jonas Kremer Jose Antonio Collar Joseph C. Joyce van Soest João Aender Jsalda Judit Dalla Judith Tanner Julianna Lees Julie July Junwang111 KYLE ROUSSEL Kadet722796 Kasper Kbecq Kelly Henry Keqi Klaus Freisinger Knut Krijn Krzysztof B LaVale Lambert.joaquim Lamelas Lara Adler Lauren Leontine Helleman Lidiane Lindaann Lisu Marian Liverpool1023 Loic Pedras Lois Dekker Lorenzo Mejino Lorenzo2022 Lucas Del Puppo Luciano Imperadori Lucio Gorla Ludvan Luis Filipe Gaspar MAURO PODDA MH MMM MaYumin Marcel staron Marie Morlon Markus Marta Lempert Martin Richardson Martina Rúčková Marton Kemeny Mateusz Matthewsharris Małgosia Łupicka Michael Novins Michiel Dekker Mikko Milan Jirasek Misswanderlust Mkborys MoPython Monchan5396 Monica Tasciotti Monika and Rini Mtlmr Nan Nasebaer NataliaS Nicole Kilian Nihal Ege Nomad99 Okvaal Ouchelle Paola Laura Paolo ZaK Paolosan82 Pascal Cauliez Patphilly Patrik Paul Schofield Petteri Philipp Leu Philipp Peterer Pieter Dijkshoorn Pink Bunny Polyommatus_icarus Potsdamer Q Rahelka Randi Thomsen Raphael Rdroghetti Reiseblitz Reza Riccardo Quaranta RobRos Robin Frank Roccobot Roel Sterken Roger Ourset Rogerding Roman Bruehwiler Roman Koeln Rvieira SHIHE HUANG Sabrina Liebehentschel Schnitzel Sclowitz Seadie Sergio Arjona Serimari Shandos Cleaver SirLoydd Sjboyd Skalec Socon Solivagant Stanislaw Warwas SteO153 Stefan and Mia Stefania Giudice Stephanv Stephanvermeulen Strogan Sutul Svein Elias Szucs Tamas Tamara Ratz Tarquinio_Superbo Tatiana Nikulnikova Tcchang0825 Thibault Magnien Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt TimAllen Tkinou Tom Livesey Tommasorossotti Tonisan Tony0001 Tourhistrio Tsunami Usagi1974 ValiaVeweth Van Hung Vanessa Buechler Veelineen Viaje al Patrimonio Vidiot Viv WHS Lux WILLIAM RICH Walter H. Weggeworfeneleiter Werner Huber Whitegio Wojciech Fedoruk Wolfgang Hlousa WolfgangHl Xiquinho Silva Yevhen Ivanovych ZivaB Zoë Sheng Zsuzsanna Forray