Matera, Italy is one of the most unique and unusual cities we have ever seen! Here, you’ll find one of the oldest cities in the world, which is famous for a very unusual thing: Sassi. The sassi of Matera are stone houses that are carved out of caves and cliffs. They stand on either side of a deep ravine, and the people of Matera have inhabited them for centuries.
Until the 1950s, hundreds of families were living in the cave houses, crowded tightly and dealing with unbearable conditions. But then, they were forced out by law and moved to more modern buildings. The sassi remain a reminder of the past, with more cave houses being converted into restaurants, hotels, and comfortable houses. During our time in Matera, we were lucky to stay in one of the renovated cave hotels.
We spent our time wandering around the sassi districts, where narrow maze-like alleys lead every which way. Sometimes, the streets are even rooftops of people’s homes. It was amazing to see the historical, architectural, and natural heritage packed into the sassi of Matera.
While walking around we developed a feeling for this ancient city and discovered its structures, significance, and cultures.
Like many Italian cities, Matera boasts many churches and piazzas:
Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario
We also visited the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario. This is a cave house filled with items to show how a typical cave house was set up. It was unbelievable how the people lived here…
Chickens lived under the bed. A horse stayed in the corner. There was a separate space for manure. Children slept wherever they could find a spot. And these are the conditions they lived in until the 1950s! During the audio description it was interesting to learn how they made do with these restricted living environments.
Belvedere di Murgia Timone
We then headed over to the Belvedere di Murgia Timone, which was on the opposite side of the 200 meter ravine. We walked about two kilometers to the top, and saw the most impressive views of Matera. This is definitely something not to miss while here!
Before visiting Matera, Italy we made sure to read about the history of this amazing city. We think it really helped to have a bit of historical background so we could make sense of the sites here. It is without a doubt, one of the most interesting and unique places we have ever seen!