Matera

Matera
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The Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera are the best surviving and most complete examples of rock-cut settlement in the Mediterranean region. They have been developed in close harmony with the natural environments.

Nature has provided this location with a belt of soft tufa, with two natural depressions. The caves here have been used since prehistoric times. Population pressure drove people out of the city of Matera, into these Sassi. From the 17th century on, this area was left to the poor. At first they lived in the bare caves, later these developed into house-like structures.

The Sassi were evacuated by law in 1952. 15.000 people, living in extremely poor hygienic circumstances, had to be resettled to new quarters.

Map of Matera

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Els

Visit January 2005

I had read "Christ stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi in preparation of 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.

January 2005

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.

January 2005

In one of the houses you can also have a look inside. It doesn't look too bad on 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.

January 2005

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!


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 Afshin Iranpour Alberto Peterle Alessandro Votta Alexander Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Alfons and Riki Verstraeten Alias65 Andrew Wembridge Argo Arianna Artworks Atila Ege Aurelien Drilant-Abenascad Bailon Bin Bojana Bartol Brigitte Huber Butterflybird Carstenhansen Celiabc_87@icloud.com Cezar Grozavu Chenboada Chenqtao Cheryl Claire Bradshaw Clyde Corinne Vail Courtneyfleming Craig Harder Cristina Erba Daniel Chazad David Aaronson & Melanie Stowell David Berlanda David Marton Dibro Dimitar Krastev Dimitrios Polychronopoulos Donald M Parrish Jr Elia Vettorato Els Slots Enrico Cerrini Eva Kisgyorgy Fabi-ddorf Fabian Teusch Fan Yibo Farinelli Fedekiwi Feldhase Femke Roos Filipacfa Fkarpfinger Fool79 G. ingraham G.L. Ingraham Garellos Gernot Gi Gianni Bianchini Gwythyr Hamid Hannes Muehlbacher Hdimoshi Homadism Hubert Iain Jackson Ivana Greslikova JBTOR Jbaker0811 Jeanne OGrady Joel Baldwin John booth Jon Eshuijs Jonas Kremer Judit Dalla Judith Tanner Julianna Lees Jurgen Stevens KYLE ROUSSEL Kelly Henry Klaus Freisinger Krijn Lara Adler Lars Gunnar Gardo Lauren Leontine Helleman Lisu Marian Lois Dekker Lorenzo Mejino Luciano Imperadori Luigi Tura MAURO PODDA MMM Marie Morlon Markus Marta Lempert Massimiliano croce Mateusz Matthewsharris Mauro Martino Michael Novins Michelle Attard Michiel Dekker Mikko Milan Jirasek Monica Tasciotti Monika and Rini Nan Nihal Ege Pascal Cauliez Patphilly Paul Schofield Petteri Philipp Peterer Pieter Dijkshoorn Randi Thomsen Reza Riccardo Quaranta RobRos Roger Ourset Roman Koeln Ronaldo Michels Sabrina Liebehentschel Schnitzel Sergio Arjona Shandos Cleaver Sjboyd Socon Solivagant Stanislaw Warwas SteO153 Stefan and Mia Stephanvermeulen Strogan Sutul Svein Heltberg Szucs Tamas Tatiana Nikulnikova Teresa J. Wilkin Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt Tkinou Tom Livesey Tony0001 Tsunami Vanessa Buechler Veelineen Vidiot WHS Lux WILLIAM RICH Walter H. Werner Huber Wolfgang Hlousa WolfgangHl Zhao, hui Zoë Sheng Zsuzsanna Forray