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Matera, Province of Matera, Basilicata

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".

Info

  • Altitude: 401 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 60,000 inhabitants in 2018
  • Zip/postal code: 75100
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0835
  • Patron Saint: Madonna della Bruna, celebrated on 2 July
  • Demonym: materani
  • Frazioni & Localities: La Martella, Picciano A, Picciano B, Venusio, Villaggio Timmari

History

Matera was inhabited since pre-historic times, as shown in the "Sassi" (meaning "stones of Matera"). This was a prehistorical (troglodyte) settlement, and is suspected to be one of the first human settlements in Italy.

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.

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. In 1993 Matera was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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". Cathedral of Matera
  • The "Sassi" are houses dug into the tuff rock typical of Puglia and Basilicata. Many of these "houses" are really only caverns. More recently, local administration, becoming more tourism-oriented, has helped the "Sassi" to become more livable and attractive. There is a great similarity with ancient sites in and around Jerusalem, and for this reason Matera was chosen by film makers as their setting, 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 Christ" (2004).
View of the Sassi

Where to stay