The Sassi of Matera

The history of Matera is often identified with the history of the Sassi.

The name “Sassi” identifies the two main districts that make up the historic center of the city of Matera: the “Civita” and the “Piano”. The term “Sassi di Matera” refers to this duality and not to the name “stone” associated with the premises and dwellings that arise within these districts.

Around the “Civita”, the Sasso Barisano and the Sasso Caveoso develop.

The Sasso Barisano, named for its location, is oriented towards the northwest and takes its name from the city of Bari. It initially represents the primary part of the Sassi along with the Civita.

The Sasso Caveoso, oriented towards the south, takes its name from the city of Montescaglioso, known in the Middle Ages as Mons Caveous. It is characterized by dwellings dug into the tuff, built one above the other. The excavated material was used to create the front part of the dwelling, thus closing the “cave”, hence the name “cave-house”. The arrangement of these dwellings resembles the cavea of a theater, with the cave houses descending in steps towards the ravine. Originally, this area was secondary to the Civita and the Sasso Barisano and began to populate only following a strong migratory flow of Balkan populations during the sixteenth century.

Matera is among the oldest cities in the world, with the first settlements dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Many of the houses dug into the calcarenite have been lived in continuously since the Bronze Age. The first definition of Sasso as a stony inhabited district dates back to a document from 1204. Various peoples and cultures have succeeded each other over the years.

The Sassi are a cultural landscape, to quote the definition with which they were included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1993. They were the first site listed from Southern Italy. The inscription was motivated by the fact that they represent an extraordinary urban ecosystem, capable of perpetuating from the farthest prehistoric past the ways of living in caves to modernity. The Sassi of Matera constitute an exceptional example of accurate utilization over time of natural resources: water, soil, energy. In the report of the commission that verified the site’s compliance with UNESCO’s evaluation criteria, Matera’s candidacy responds to the following criteria:

“Criterion III: The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera constitute an exceptional testimony of a vanished civilization. The region’s first inhabitants lived in underground dwellings and celebrated worship in rupestrian churches, which were conceived in such a way as to provide an example for future generations on how to utilize the qualities of the natural environment for the use of resources of the sun, rock, and water.

Criterion IV: The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera are a significant example of an architectural and landscape ensemble that witnesses significant moments in human history. These range from primitive underground dwellings carved into the stone facades of ravines to sophisticated urban structures built with the materials excavated, and from well-preserved natural landscapes with important biological and geological characteristics to complex urban landscapes.

Criterion V: The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera are a significant example of a traditional human settlement and land use representative of a culture that has, from its origins, maintained a harmonious relationship with its natural environment and is now subject to potential risks. The balance between human intervention and the ecosystem shows a continuity for over nine millennia, during which parts of the settlement cut into the rock were gradually adapted in relation to the growing needs of the inhabitants.”

Curiosity about Matera

The vicinati, consisting of a set of houses facing the same square, often with a well in the center, were the model of social life, solidarity, and collaboration of the Sassi. The common well where clothes were washed, the oven where bread was kneaded made the vicinato the fundamental cell of community organization. In the houses, light comes from above and the temperature is constant at 15 degrees, with the thermal mass of marine tuff acting as an air conditioner. While the perpendicular and scorching summer sun rays stay outside, in winter, the oblique rays slide into the bottom of the caves. This degradation and overlapping of houses and cottages is only seemingly chaotic, because then it turns out to be built with many precautions. But descending into the Sassi is a continuous surprise. Among alleyways and steps, one arrives at formidable monastic complexes carved into the rock, Benedictine cenobies, and Byzantine laurae, in which the cells of monks cluster around an underground church.

Discover our Tours

You will walk through the sasso caveoso, the sasso barisano and the historic centre with an authorised guide, the tour includes the oldest area of the sassi districts. During the guided tour you will visit an ancient rock church, a cave - dwelling and a beautiful hypogeum with oil mills, cisterns and millstones inside.

More details

Offer valid all year round.
25,00 €
Book now for 25,00 €

reviews

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT US

clelia cancelli
clelia cancelli
06/02/2024
Ciao sono Clelia da Bergamo. Questa visita mi era stata consigliata da un amica ma confermo .... è da fare .... La nostra guida Brunella è riuscita a farmi capire cosa stavo vedendo ...la realtà di una vita in quei posti che a noi oggi si presentano stupendi e unici ma c'è tutto un perché è un percome da raccontare. Brava. La consiglio vivamente. Bergamo. Febbraio 2024.
pasquina de leonardis
pasquina de leonardis
05/02/2024
Terry eccezionale!
Gianluca Izzo
Gianluca Izzo
25/01/2024
Siamo stati a Matera un paio di settimane fa, seguiti dalla guida Teresa; bravissima, professionale e soprattutto con la passione che ci vuole a spiegare e far vivere una realtà come i sassi, condito tutto da qualche detto locale, parola locale, sapore locale; ci siamo sentiti accompagnati come da un parente, abbiamo rivissuto, grazie a Teresa, cosa succedeva tra i cortili, cosa succedeva in una casa rupestre, ottimo bravi, consigliati !
Luca Mattii
Luca Mattii
12/01/2024
Interessante e piacevole visita alla scoperta delle bellezze di Matera e della sua storia.
Federica Giuliano
Federica Giuliano
08/01/2024
Ottima esperienza. Guida molto preparata e disponibile, costo dell'esperienza più che onesto e con una inaspettata sorpresa finale. Consigliatissimo
Claudia Venturini
Claudia Venturini
08/01/2024
Guida molto competente, coinvolgente , puntuale e divertente ! Consigliatissimo!
Franco Granito
Franco Granito
06/01/2024
Bellissima esperienza sia di cultura che di integrazione nella bellissima cornice dei sassi di Matera ...... La guida "Vittoria" una donna che ama il suo territorio e fa vivere un percorso davvero entusiasmante.....Mia figlia di 6 anni era rapita dai suoi racconti come noi....complimenti a tutti..
Toni Talluto
Toni Talluto
06/01/2024
bellissima struttura situata dentro i sassi di Matera, sasso barisano. camera accogliente. staff gentile, soprattutto Orsolita che fin dall'inizio si è presa cura di noi. ottima colazione.
Giuseppe Pettineo
Giuseppe Pettineo
05/01/2024
Abbiamo fatto il tour con Brunella,un'ottima guida, emozionante l'attaccamento alla sua terra e l'orgoglio delle sue origini, squisita anche la degustazione finale di prodotti tipici del territorio.. consigliatissimo
Rosario Spanò
Rosario Spanò
04/01/2024
tour ottimo, guida molto molto competente, simpatica e gentile, attenta e disponibile, in due ore ci ha dato una visione completa dei Sassi e non solo (e ci ha fatto fare anche delle bellissime foto ;-) )
FOLLOW US

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Contact Us Book Online and Save
Get your guide in Matera