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Matera, Province of Matera, Basilicata

Province of Matera
Matera is the capital center of the province of the same name, and lies over a small canyon, which has been dug in the course of years by a small water stream, called "Gravina".
Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the so-called "Sassi di Matera" (meaning "stones of Matera") which is a prehistorical (troglodyte) settlement, and is suspected to be one of the first human settlements in Italy. In 1993 Matera was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Provinces of Basilicata

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Info

  • Altitude: 401 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 58,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 75100
  • Phone Area Code: 0835
  • Patron Saint: Madonna della Bruna, celebrated on 2 July
  • Demonym: materani
  • Frazioni & Localities: La Martella, Picciano A, Picciano B, Venusio, Villaggio Timmari

What to see

  • The Cathedral, built in the Romanesque style typical of Apulia in the latter half of the 13th century, baroque inside, preserves a precious byzanthine statue of the Virgin Mary called "La Bruna".

The Sassi

The "Sassi" are houses dug into the tuff rock typical of Puglia and Basilicata. Many of these "houses" are really only caverns. During the 1950s, the government relocated most of the population of the Sassi to the modern city of Matera. People still live in the Sassi today, however. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses are mostly unlivable.

Current local administration, becoming more tourism-oriented, has helped the "Sassi" to become more livable and attractive. There is a great similarity in the look of the Sassi with that of ancient sites in and around Jerusalem, which are as ancient, and for this reason was chosen by film makers as the setting for ancient Jerusalem, more specifically by Pier Paolo Pasolini in "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" (1964), Bruce Beresford in "King David" (1985) and Mel Gibson in "The Passion of the Christ" (2004).

A memorable chapter on Matera, describing the really poor life of people in the south of Italy at the beginning of the 20th century, is in the book "Cristo si è fermato a Eboli" (Christ stopped at Eboli) by Carlo Levi.