Sassi Matera – discovering a historic centre unique in its kind
The Sassi in the last few decades have become a quite popular destination among travellers and directors who, nevertheless, usually visit this place without being fully aware of its incredible value and the reason for which Unesco has listed it as a World Heritage in 1993.
Because of that, some people spend too little time for the visit and go away missing the chance to see the most evocative spots of a place that is, objectively, one of the oldest and more fascinating of the world.
Therefore, the goal of Sassi Matera is to let visitors discover the very intimate essence of the Sassi, their history and their traditions from the "inside", spreading those values that have guided the ancient inhabitants of Matera to create a town-system in complete harmony with Nature and the ecosystem.
In order to perceive the "Soul of the Sassi" and understand why they have been given in 1993 this prestigious award, it is advisable to start just with the Unesco’s definition:
"This is the most outstanding and intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem. The first inhabited zone dates from the Palaeolithic period, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history"
Hence the Sassi represent, first of all, the most outstanding example of urban settlement dug into the rock as they witness, in a continuous way, "the art of living in a cave" from the Paleolithic to the present day.
Starting in the 8th century, more and more Benedictine and Byzantine communities of monks settled both in the Sassi and on the nearby rocky highland of the Murge where they used existing caves or carved new ones in order to transform them in churches.
These monastic settlements have been active through all the Middle Ages till the beginning of the Renaissance and, in some cases, they have attained a high level of iconographic and architectural evolution.
Between the Sassi and the Park of the rupestrian churches, one can count 155 stone churches, with some of them being nothing but hermitages, and others being lauras or coenobia built over several levels.
Starting in the ‘50s, Matera has been several times a natural set for popular movies like Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" and many others, what has contributed to make the town more and more famous worldwide as a tourist destination.