Matera is the city of the Sassi, the original urban settlement that developed from the natural caves cut into the rock, later fashioned into increasingly complex structures inside two great natural amphitheatres: the Sasso Caveoso and the Sasso Barisano.
The architectural structure is divided into two sections.
One, the part that first meets the eye, comprises the successive strata of homes, courtyards, landings,
town houses, churches, streets, and flower and kitchen gardens; the other, internally, is initially concealed from view, made up of cellars, ice pits, tanks, tunnels and water-management systems, which are essential for the community to survive and thrive. In 1993, UNESCO declared the Sassi of Matera a World Heritage Site.
On 17 October 2014, Matera was named European Capital of Culture for 2019.

Visiting the Sassi of Matera

The Sassi area became southern Italy’s first World Heritage Site in 1993. The Sassi are the most important example of an urban centre cut into rock, evidence of the art of cave dwelling. Humans began inhabiting these places in Palaeolithic times, in the Stone Age, around 2.5 million years ago. Dr Ridola, a local scholar who gave his name to a museum holding various finds, reached these conclusions when he discovered the famous “bat cave”.
The Sassi are also fascinating for the heritage left here by Benedictine and Greek Orthodox (Byzantine) monks. These devotees settled in the gorge around the 8th and 9th centuries, living in the caves and fashioning places of worship there, in what are known as the “rupestrian churches”. Over 150 remain. An especially interesting example is the “Crypt of original sin”, one of several open to the public.


Depart from Calaponte: 9 am
Arrive in Matera: 10:45 am
Lunch at a typical trattoria: 1 pm
Return to Calaponte: 4 pm

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