Matera is the city of the Sassi, proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993 and recognised on the 17th of October 2014 as the European Capital of Culture for the year 2019.
Matera is a city with an ancient history showing how man has continuously gone through the many millennia starting from the Stone Age, following through to the Metal age, the early development of Christianity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque and the eighteenth century and finishing with the united Italy we see today.
In the course of this long story, Matera has has undergone profound changes while maintaining its environmental and rocky aspects of a place set in a spectacular landscape that tells of the deep bond between man and nature. The Sassi is part of a unique landscape built by the Walloons, (people who spoke a French dialect and lived in southern and eastern Belgium), canyons and plateaus sculpted over time by the Gravina cascade, mostly falling today in the Natural Archaeological Park of the Rock Churches of Matera.
Matera is a place that fascinates and involves its visitors in its uniqueness, a place defined magical for its ability to surprise and offer sensations that you can’t forget. It is the capital of the rock churches in the Mediterranean for the way that the stories of nature and mankind are etched and carved into the rock, a rare example in the world, where it is possible to gather the testimonials from a ‘Rupestri’ (rock) civilisation.
In 1993 UNESCO made the Sassi of Matera and the Murgia Materana Park a World Heritage Site, the first UNESCO site in the South of Italy. The Sassi of Matera presents itself as a rare example of urban evolution, that since the primary settlements carved into the rock, has evolved through the ages becoming more complex homes, rock churches, underground systems and above ground systems all superimposed to form a large nativity scene in the natural environment of the canyon formed by the Gravina of Matera.
The Sassi of Matera has built a scenery that has also been chosen by the great masters of film, including Pasolini, who chose Matera as the setting for his masterpieces . In fact, Matera has at its centre a incredible
landscape that preserves the grand assets of culture and tradition and is home to exhibitions of great national and international prestige.
It is a city with a fascinating and complex story: a city of borders, contrasts, competition and fusion between landscapes, civilisation, culture and diversity. From rock civilisation in the prehistoric age to the early Middle Ages with the advent of the Byzantine and Eastern culture matrix, which was followed by the Normans, and then the systematic attempt to conform the rock city to the rules of the culture of European cities: Romanesque, Renaissance, the Baroque. The last eight centuries of construction and finishing touches of the Sassi has tried to shape, win the natural strengths of the existing rock habitats, determining architecture and a very original urban accommodation.
On the basis of this historical story, Matera offers its visitors the fascinating sensation to discover, through the original thread of the true culture, of the true emotions, the trails, at times seemingly humble at others educated, of that competition that has long characterised the succession of historical events.