Matera, in Basilicata, is one of the most ancient cities on the earth and for the whole 2019 it will be the Italian Capital of Culture, a non stop stage of high-level events, shows, concerts and meetings, that will have as showcase its famous Sassi, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1993, about which we tell you in this report, so you can prepare your own travel and you will say: I also was in Matera 2019 !
Matera is an exceptional place: seven thousand years of history told by its Sassi, protagonists of an urbanistic, cultural and touristic rebirth from the end of the 90s . A rebirth that has involved all the districts of the city, inside and outside the Gravina, the impressive and spactacular canyon which marks the profile of the whole city.
A profile that has made Matera the most photographed and filmed city in Basilicata. Here, a lot of famous movies, like The Passion by Mel Gibson, The Gospel according to Matthew by Pier Paolo Pasolini, King David with Richerd Geere, and many others have been shooted.
A visit to the historical center allows to discover not only the past and the important monumental heritage of Matera, but also the vitality of present time, districts that return to live after decades of abandonment; hotels and restaurants that open from nothing; nighttime life that is fervent among pubs and bars; handcraft activities and reviews of contemporary art that bring new lymph to places that seem gone out of the earth’s bowel.
Today, Matera’s Sassi emit vitality, cheerfulness, and movement. They are always full of people who come here for artistical reviews, shows, concerts or simply to enjoy their magic lights at sunset or to have a drink on their small terraces.
Sasso Caveoso, caressed by the Sirocco, and Sasso Barisano, swept by the North wind, are the two parts of Sassi and they witness a rocky civilization that has its roots in the Neolitic.
From Sedile Square, it is easy to go down to the Sasso Caveoso, the most ancient, where the houses are directly dug in the tuff. A vision that leaves without words: hundreds of small habitations, bundled one on the other as a beehive; tortuous alleys and small stairways that sprout from the nothing; small courtyards, with the common water’s cistern, called neighborhoods and rocky churches that have mantained their primitive charm.
A picturesque disorder, but only apparent. In reality, the complex discloses a great constructive ability and an extraordinary space exploitation. The small houses were dug one on the other, in such way that the roof of one served as floor or terrace to the one upstairs, or it supported the plan of a road or the layout of a stairway.
Naturally, living in a Sasso was not easy! The biggest part of these caves were composed of a unique room, without windows or skylights, with the doors’ hole for air and lights. The small space was shared with chickens, rabbits, donkeys and pigs, as it shows the House Cave-Museum in Vico Solitario, next to San Pietro square, organized with original furniture and utensils.
Besides that, from an urbanistic and architectural point of view, the Matera’s Sassi are considered a genial example of city-nature, developed with an extreme respect of the environment. This is the reason why this site was declared Unesco World Heritage Site since 1993.
Buozzi street cuts in two parts the Sasso Caveoso; it’s always full of life and visitors as the whole neighborhood: private houses, studios and interesting artisan shops.
The urban circuit of the rocky churches begins from Buozzi street; it’s connected by tortuous alleys, where you can admire, among the so many, the ancient St. Giovanni in Monterrone Church built in VIII century, whose crypt is connected by a corridor to Santa Maria de Idris Church (XIV century), a small wonder, for a half dug in the rock and for the other one reconstructed after the collapse of the time. Or the Convicinio of Sant’Antonio (XII-XIII century), a union of four and open churches on a common courtyard. Or Santa Lucia alle Malve, founded around the year Thousand from a community of Benedictine nuns, and gamely built on the precipice of the Gravina, whose frescos, shed around three inside aisles, are among the masterpieces of the rocky painting of this part of Basilicata.
Now, dear friends, our walk continues towards Sasso Barisano trough Madonna delle Virtu’ street, the so-called Panoramic Road of the Stones. Here, the big part of buildings was built and not dug with blocks of tuff. Addozio and Fiorentini streets are the natural prosecution of the Panoramic Road, they penetrate the heart of the Barisano, a world full of magnetic charm, with unbelievable places, as the rocky churches complex Madonna delle Virtù and San Nicola ai Greci, articulated in two floors and also used for shows of art. The churches are double: undernieth, a Benedictine monastery of the XI century; above, the church of St. Nicola, IX century, by Byzantine ritual, that gives an eastern note to the whole complex. Or Sant’Agostino Church on a spur of rock. Or, still, San Pietro to the Barisano Church, half built and half dug in the tuff.
At the height of San. Giovanni Vecchio street, a courtyard building hosts the Museum-Laboratory of Country Civilization, in which every room reproduces not only the farmers’ jobs, but also the different handcraft activities that developed among the Sassi: blacksmith, knife sharpener, coppersmith, cabinetmaker, potter, saddler, tanners and so on. Activities delivered to the memory, while the new artisans aim at creativeness and modern design, using stone, glass and many other natural materials.
Our walk across Matera’s Sassi ends here, dear friends. But don’t worry, because it’s only the first of many other walks to discover one of the most ancient and extraordinary cities in the world. Stay tuned and remember that the events of Matera 2019 Italian Capital of Culture will end the next 31 december.
We are waiting for you in Matera !
Matera_credits by Luca Lancieri
Eating and sleeping in Matera’s Sassi, our adresses tried for you