Sassi di Matera

Matera, Italy

The Sassi di Matera are two districts (Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano) of the Italian city of Matera, Basilicata, well-known for their ancient cave dwellings inhabited since the Paleolithic period.

It have been described by Fodor's as one of the most unique landscapes in Europe. Along with the park of the Rupestrian Churches, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.

The Sassi originate from a prehistoric troglodyte settlement and are suspected to be among the first human settlements in Italy. There is evidence that people were living here as early as the year 7000 BC.

The Sassi are houses dug into the calcarenitic rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia, locally called 'tufo' although it is not volcanic tuff or tufa. The streets in some parts of the Sassi often run on top of other houses. The ancient town grew up on one slope of the ravine created by the Gravina river. The ravine is known locally as 'la Gravina'.

In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Beset by extreme poverty and riddled with malaria, the unhealthy living conditions were considered inhuman and an affront to the modern new Italian Republic of Alcide De Gasperi. However, people continued to live in the Sassi.

Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since many of these houses were, and in some cases still are, uninhabitable. The current local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented, and it has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi with the aid of the European Union, the government, and UNESCO.



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Via San Potito 4, Matera, Italy
See all sites in Matera


Founded: 7000 BCE
Category: Historic city squares, old towns and villages in Italy


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User Reviews

Παναγιωτης Κωστοπουλος (4 months ago)
The enchanting city of Matera is something unique. If someone hasn't visited the city, they can not understand the feeling you get when you walk through its streets. It is one of the oldest settlements in Europe protected by Unesco heritage. In the old town, you will find unique corners, beautiful houses, mysterious alleys, and neighborhoods full of history. You will love this place as long as you feel like walking in the narrow streets of the city. It's definitely one of the places you should see even once, it's a lifetime experience...!!!
Maryna M (4 months ago)
It's a special place where you can see how it was a long time ago. Life in caves with animals... Sightseeing is amazing. A cozy small mini family museum inside of one of these houses full of old stuff met us a coolness. It was exactly needed because of 40*C outside.
Mila (4 months ago)
Interesting to see how lives people till the middle of stones.. Cute city ,not so warm beacouse in the high mountain... Infront of the city very famous caves...but nothing special and smells not good( Anyway recommended to go up and see this beautiful view. Enjoy your trip ?
Vladimir Shalapatanov (4 months ago)
Amazing and very interesting city (Sassi area). Upon our arrival we felt very medieval atmosphere even it was not so long ago when people really lived there. We visited Matera i n July. This I don't recommend, because it gets really hot.
Karol Lewandowski (15 months ago)
Magical place, wandering through the narrow streets of Sassi is something different. As soon as you enter the old city you feel like you just traveled in time. Getting lost in this city is nothing but pleasure. Also I recommend taking a hike up the hill opposing the city to get the best view.
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