Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It’s location at a rocky ravine created by a river is pocked with a labyrinth of caves. No wonder “Cave Men” inhabited this place 15 thousand years ago.
Today the caves exist concealed behind countless dwelling facades stacked up the sides of two mountainous ravines. Off the beaten tourist track this curious place has gained international fame for the “Sassi di Matera”. The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcareous rock itself, which is characteristic of the provinces of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of them are really little more than caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi a street lies on top of another group of dwellings. In the 1950s, the government of Italy used force to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Until the late 1980s the Sassi was considered an area of poverty, since its dwellings were, and in most cases still are, uninhabitable. With the aid of the Italian government and UNESCO, today there are many thriving businesses, five star restaurants and hotels maintaining the ancient facades while modernizing and upscaling the interiors.