Sassi di Matera
|The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|Criteria||iii, iv, v|
|UNESCO region||Europe and North America|
|Inscription||1993 (17th Session)|
The Sassi di Matera (meaning "stones of Matera") are ancient cave dwellings in the Italian city of Matera, Basilicata. Situated in the old town, they are composed of the Sasso Caveoso and the later Sasso Barisano.
The Sassi are houses dug into the calcarenitic rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Puglia, and is locally called "tufo" though it should not be confused with the volcanic tuff nor with tufa. Many of these "houses" are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. The ancient town grew in height on one slope of the ravine created by a river that is now a small stream. 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. Riddled with malaria the unsanitary conditions were considered an affront to the new Italian Republic of Alcide De Gasperi. However, people continued to live in the Sassi, and according to the English Fodor's guide:
Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago.
Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses were, and in most areas still are, mostly unlivable. Current local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented, and has promoted the re-generation of the Sassi with the aid of the European Union, the government, UNESCO, and Hollywood. Today there are many thriving businesses, pubs, and hotels.
One of the benefits of the ancient city is that there is a great similarity in the look of the Sassi to that of ancient sites in and around Jerusalem. This has caught the eye of film directors and movie studios. Principally due to this reason the Sassi were the set of many films, as for example The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pasolini, 1964), King David (Bruce Beresford, 1985), The Passion of the Christ (Gibson, 2004) and The Nativity Story (Hardwicke, 2006).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sassi di Matera.|
- Sassi's page on UNESCO website
- Sassi di Matera (HD Webcam)
- Museo Laboratorio della Civiltà Contadina
- "Life is Beautiful - a travel music video"