Holidays, of course, are about sea, sun, and relaxation, but not only that, because sometimes more is needed to make a holiday special. If you love art and architecture, there are many destinations that offer the right things to explore. One of the destinations to visit even just for a weekend, to discover places, stories, and landscapes through unprecedented perspectives, is Matera.
Matera is one of the oldest cities in the world and its territory preserves evidence of human settlements starting from the Paleolithic and without interruptions up to the present day. It represents an extraordinary page written by man through the millennia of this very long history.
Matera, a city located on a rocky outcrop in Basilicata, in Southern Italy, is in fact called the city of stones. In 1993 UNESCO declared the Sassi of Matera a World Heritage Site. On 17 October of 2014 Matera was designated European Capital of Culture for 2019.
The Sassi di Matera rise on one of the sides of a canyon dug by the Gravina stream over time. The original urban core that developed from natural caves carved into the rock and subsequently modeled into increasingly complex structures within two large natural amphitheaters which are Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. On the other side lies the Natural Historical Archaeological Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera, also known as the Murgia Materana Park.
The unique architecture of the Sassi di Matera talks about the abilities of people to adapt perfectly to the environment and the natural context, masterfully using simple characteristics such as the constant temperature of the excavated rooms, the limestone itself of the rocky bank for the construction of the houses outside land and the use of slopes for the control of water and meteoric phenomena.
History of the Sassi of Matera
Originally the Sassi di Matera were a rocky environment. The western part is characterized at the bottom by steep walls that overlook the stream, at the top the side has a series of terraces, hills, and plateaus more suitable for human settlement, places that in the course over the millennia they have been transformed from rock villages into a real city.
The first human settlements in the territory of Matera date back to the Paleolithic and they were developed by using the natural caves that define the rocky landscape of Matera. Over time, the natural caves have been joined by those who found an exceptional possibility of settlement protected from natural conditions in the friable tuff rock.
After going through the phases of prehistory: the Paleolithic, the Neolithic and the different metal ages, the history of Matera was impacted by the uprising of Christianity. The Christian imprint becomes culturally dominant in a short time. Throughout the Middle Ages the rocky landscape was systematically transformed with the construction of impressive places of worship.
During the Middle Ages, impressive buildings were built including the majestic Cathedral of Matera, the church of San Giovanni Battista, the church of San Domenico, the church of Santa Maria della Valle Verde on the Via Appia. Today the Sassi di Matera offer the visitor a great cultural landscape.