(…cont’d from Part I)
La Città Nella Roccia — The Town Carved Out of the Rock
Nestled in the “arch” of the boot between Puglia and Campania, Basilicata was, until recently, a lesser known and less visited region of Italy. However, with the surge in popularity of Matera and its unique Sassi this region is is being “discovered” for its uniqueness and rich history.
While part of the town of Matera spreads out across the Murgia Plateau, the Sassi district is undeniably the main attraction and for good reason. With its complex network of caves, cisterns, rock-cut houses and churches separated and connected by alleyways, archways, terraces, overlapping streets on top of dwellings and steep flights of steps (and I do mean steep!) the Sassi is a fascinating maze to explore on foot.
After the decision to move the inhabitants out, work began in the late 50’s-early 60’s to restore the old houses and rock cut churches. This resurgence in re-development and investment has transformed many of the dwellings into cave hotels, private homes, restaurants, and shops.
Dedicated to preserving its unique heritage, both the ancient dwellings as well as new museums and tourist services are faithfully restored to enhance their original features.
Described as the “most ancient living city in the world”, in 1993 the Sassi became a Unesco World Heritage Site and in October, 2014, Matera was awarded the title of the 2019 European Capital of Culture, the fourth Italian city to garner this honor.
The Commissioner predicted, ”I am convinced that the title will bring Matera and its surrounding area significant long-term cultural, economic and social benefits, as we have seen with previous European Capitals…”
This recognition, along with the infusion of millions of euros, being featured prominently featured in travel journals and magazines, and the rise in tourism, will doubtless usher Matera into a new era.