Matera and the "Sassi"The "Sassi di Matera" (in Italian "Sassi" means "Stones") are two districts (called Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano) made up of dwellings partly carved out of calcareous tufa and partly built using the excavated blocks.
This human settlement has developed, starting in the Paleolithic, along the steep sides of a deep ravine worn by the Gravina torrent.
In 1993, the Sassi of Matera have been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage, since they represent:
“the most outstanding, 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, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history”
An important feature to keep in mind while visiting the “Sassi di Matera” is the huge number of rupestrian (or rock-cut) churches: between the Sassi and the nearby “Park of rupestrian churches” there are about 150 stone churches, carved out of rock between the 8th and the 14th century (for further information about this topic, please read our article about the stone churches of Matera).
Another interesting aspect to observe in the Sassi is the ingenious rainwater collection system: the town and the surrounding area is rich of channels (underground or carved on the surface of the Murgia plateau), settling basins, cisterns (the so-called “palombari”), pipes used to collect rainwater from rooftops and the like: all these elements make a true aqueduct dug out of stone.
Some of these cisterns have been daubed with cocciopesto, a waterproof plaster invented by Phoenicians and improved by Romans.
Our guided tour will let you discover the most evocative spots of the "Sassi di Matera", where you'll witness the long human path from the Paleolithic to the present day.
During our tour, you will also admire some masterpieces of the Apulian-Romanesque and Baroque architecture, and you will immerse into the silence of ancient stone churches enlightened by the the beauty of sublime Benedictine and Byzantine frescoes.
You will feel the human misery of the former inhabitants of a cave-dwelling, abandoned as soon as the late 50s.
Walking through narrow streets and tiny squares with a licensed tourist guide, you'll have the chance to understand the importance and uniqueness of this urban settlement, a natural setting for about 30 movies, including Mel Gibson's “The passion of the Christ” and Pasolini's “The Gospel according to St. Matthew”.
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