Matera, known worldwide as the City of the Sassi (the city of the Stones), is a city in Southern Italy and more precisely in Basilicata. Matera is called the city of the Sassi, because its historic centre stands on a rocky wall, where Cave Houses have been excavated, now known throughout the world as Sassi. Its origins are very ancient and some settlements date back to the Paleolithic era. The Sassi of Matera are excavated and built on the Gravina, a deep gorge that divides the territory into two, the Sasso Barisano, facing North West and the Sasso Caveoso facing south. The Cave Houses carved into the rock were a single compartment used as houses by the people of Matera but also as a stable and a shelter for animals of all kinds, from mules and hens, from goats to horses that shared spaces with the elderly, adults and children.
During the Fifties of the XX century Matera, the city of the Sassi, was called the shame of Italy due of hygienic-social degradation in which its inhabitants lived, so much that it was ordered to evacuate the town with a national law and the Sassi were completely abandoned. In 1986 with a law began a slow recovery of the historic centre until it became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993 and the European Capital of Culture in 2019.
Today it has become one of the most visited Italian tourist destinations also due to the fact that it was a location for many national and international film productions, from The Gospel according to Matthew by Pier Paolo Pasolini to The Passion by Mel Gibson, to Ben Hur by William Wyler.
In 2015 you could see the Aston Martin of the most popular agent 007 rushing through the Sassi for the filming of No Time to Die by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
If reading this article has inspired you to visit this wonderful town nestled in the rock, we recommend you the tour A Flight through the Sassi, Castles and Flavors. You can also read Aglianico del Vulture, The Flight of the Angel and Lucanian Delicacy.