Matera – City of Caves

This was one of our most fascinating travel days since we arrived in Europe.  Matera is a cave city, first settled in the Neolithic era and is located 425 kilometres southeast of Rome.  It is located on the “instep” of the Italian boot.  It was challenging to get to, but worth the effort.

Matera is one of the oldest settlements in the world, with human activity taking place in what is called the Sassi (a small canyon carved into a hillside) for the past nine thousand years.  The community developed with a close relationship to the rock, and consists of a mixture of caves and man made dwellings. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is currently undergoing restoration and renovation.

In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Riddled with malaria, the unhealthy living conditions were considered an affront to the new Italian Republic of Alcide De Gasperi.   – Wikipedia

About half of the thirty thousand inhabitants were transferred to new homes between 1953 and 1968.

In 2004, the community received a much needed economic boost when Mel Gibson chose the Sassi as the film location for “The Passion of the Christ.”  Six hundred locals were hired as extras, with the Sassi standing in as the Jerusalem of 2000 years ago.

No comments required on the stark beauty of  the Sassi, Matera.  The pictures speak for themselves.

Lunch at a Cave Restaurant

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