Matera – an ancient stone city in Italy

Matera is one of the most unusual and oldest settlements in Italy. The city of Matera is located in the Basilicata region and is the capital of the province of the same name. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the ancient cave houses carved out directly in the rocks – Sassi di Matera.

The settlement of Sassi grew up on one of the slopes of a gorge formed by a river, from which today only a small stream remains. The gorge is known among the locals as La Gravina.

An ancient stone city in Italy
An ancient stone city in Italy

It is believed that the oldest of these caves is about 7,000,000 years old. There are churches in the newer caves, some dating back to the VI century. In some of the churches, there are frescoes of the XI-XII centuries.

At present, Matera consists of two parts: the modern upper town and the historical lower town, Sassi. The lower town consists of picturesque rock dwellings, pathways-streets, cave churches with carved altars and labyrinthine monastic cells.

In the middle of the twentieth century, most of the inhabitants moved to the upper town, but some wished to remain in Sassi.


Matera is a “cinematic” town. The Gospel of Matthew by Pasolini, King David by Bruce Bearsford, and The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson were filmed here. And the Italian writer Carlo Levi described the lives of these people in his novel “Christ Stopped at Eboli,” which was later filmed.

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