A Visit to Matera

img_510bKnown as a subterranean city, Matera is renowned for its dwellings carved out of calcareous rock. Matera is said to be one of the world’s oldest towns, dating back to the Palaeolithic Age and inhabited continuously for around 7000 years. The simple natural grottoes that dotted this regions steep-sided Gravina gorge became an urban landscape…with an ingenious system of canals that regulated the flow of water and sewage for the inhabitants of the caves, or “sassi”.
Matera became prosperous and was the capital of Basilicata from 1663 to 1806. Eventually the increase in population became unsustainable. By the 1950’s more than half of Matera’s population still lived in the sassi (cave homes)but inadequate health conditions and overcrowding eventually forced authorities to relocate the 15,000 sassi inhabitants into new government housing. Today many of the caves in the Sassi district are restaurants, shops and boutique hotels, making Matera a truly unique place.
I choose Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, which consists of 18 Sassi or Cave rooms with a restaurant in a former Rock church cave. Our suite, Cave 14 was an impressive example of how a typical dwelling of the Sassi neighborhood can be restored. The bathtub is positioned next to the king size bed, while an adjacent cave (a former stable) houses the lavatories and a stone sink.



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