Matera is the City of Sassi
, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993, a recognition which on 17 October 2014 was followed by the designation of Matera as European Capital of Culture 2019.
Matera is a city with an ancient history which testifies to how man has continuously crossed many millennia starting from the Stone Age, followed by the Metal Age, the first developments of Christianity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the baroque and the eighteenth century, the unification of Italy up to the present day.
Over the course of this very long history, Matera has undergone profound transformations while maintaining its rocky appearance as a place set in a spectacular landscape that tells of the profound bond between man and nature. The Sassi are part of a unique landscape made up of valleys, canyons and plateaus sculpted over time by the Gravina torrent, today largely falling within the Natural Historical Archaeological Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Materano.
Matera is a place that fascinates and involves visitors due to its uniqueness, a place repeatedly defined as magical for its ability to amaze and offer sensations that are never forgotten. It is a rock capital in the Mediterranean due to the natural and human history imprinted and sculpted in the rock, one of the rare examples in the world where it is possible to grasp the evidence of a Rock Civilization.
In 1993, UNESCO included the Sassi di Matera and the Murgia Materana Park in the list of World Heritage Sites, the first Italian UNESCO site in the South. The Sassi of Matera present themselves as a rare example of urban evolution which, starting from the primary settlements dug into the rock, evolve over the various eras becoming more complex dwellings, rock churches, underground systems and above-ground systems all superimposed to form a large nativity scene in the natural context of the canyon formed by the Gravina di Matera.
The Sassi of Matera constituted a scenario that was also chosen by great masters of cinema, including Pasolini, to set their masterpieces. In fact, Matera is at the center of an incredible landscape that preserves a great heritage of culture and traditions, and is home to exhibition events of great national and international prestige.
It is a city with a fascinating and complex history: a border city, of contrasts, of competition and fusion between different landscapes, civilisations, cultures. From the rock civilization born in prehistory up to the early Middle Ages with the advent of the Byzantine and oriental culture, which was followed by the Normans, and then the systematic attempt to reduce the rock city to the rules of the culture of the European city: the Romanesque, the Renaissance, Baroque. The last eight centuries of construction and finishing of the Sassi have attempted to shape and overcome the natural resistance of the pre-existing rock habitat, resulting in very original architecture and urban arrangements.
On the basis of this particular historical event, Matera today offers its visitors the fascinating sensation of discovering, on the original thread of their own culture, of their own emotions, the traces, sometimes apparently humble, sometimes cultured, of that competition that has long characterized the succession of historical events.
Today Matera is a destination for numerous tourists who, intrigued by the goals that the city has achieved in recent decades, decide to visit it. The city offers numerous places to visit.
Naturally the Sassi are the main attraction, but the historic center is equally interesting with its palaces and splendid squares overlooked by numerous valuable medieval churches and the Murgia Materana Park with the numerous rock churches inside.
A suitable number of regularly licensed professional tourist guides are ready to accompany you on many cultural and food and wine tours within the city and its splendid surroundings.
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Traditional Matera cuisine is a simple cuisine in which stale bread is often used, made mainly of vegetables, legumes and cereals with a sparing use of meat. Today, many restaurateurs have preserved traditional recipes, others have introduced innovations in the preparation of dishes, always using excellent local products.
The level reached by Matera’s catering is certainly among the best in southern Italy thanks also to the high quality of the raw materials used, there is something for all tastes and budgets.
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Matera is a small, welcoming and quiet town with many beautiful things to do.
Even simply walking in the Sassi or on the Murgia, enjoying the silence, observing the city that awakens at dawn with its noises and changing colors, seeing the sun slowly make its way over the roofs of the houses and between the bell towers of the churches up to flooding the squares and stairways of the Sassi can be a very beautiful and satisfying experience.
In Matera it is possible to participate in cooking experiences to learn how to make fresh pasta or discover the secrets of Matera bread by putting your hands in the dough in a real bakery.
It is possible to visit the Sassi, the splendid surrounding area of the Murge or the small nearby villages with bicycles or on foot accompanied by expert guides on incredible photographic safaris to discover the historical, archaeological and naturalistic heritage that only this incredible natural treasure chest that is Matera with its Murge remains intact.
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Museums and places of cultureMatera is home to the Basilicata Museum Complex which has 10 National Museums and several Archaeological Parks scattered throughout the regional territory. The museums and archaeological areas show the occupation of the territory of Lucania since very remote times both by indigenous populations and those coming from the East relating to the first Neolithic migration which was followed by the Hellenic one.
Domenico Ridola National Archaeological Museum - Matera
The Domenico Ridola National Archaeological Museum was established in 1911 and is the oldest museum in Basilicata. The museum displays collections of naturalistic materials, ethnographic and artistic objects, and above all of precious archaeological finds collected by Ridola himself during the excavations he coordinated in the Matera area concerning the Paleolithic and Neolithic frequentations.
National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata
Also known as the Palazzo Lanfranchi Museum from the seventeenth-century building of the same name that houses it, the museum shows an exhibition itinerary that winds inside the imposing structure in three sections: Sacred Art, Collectibles and Contemporary Art. The core of the collections are works on canvas, wooden sculptures and stone works from the regional heritage. The other section is dedicated to the D’errico Picture Gallery composed of seventeenth and eighteenth century canvases of the Neapolitan school and to the pictorial work of Carlo Levi which includes the large canvas dedicated to his chosen homeland Lucania 61.
Places of culture
The city of Matera was improperly defined in the second half of the twentieth century as a national disgrace due to the terrible living conditions in which the inhabitants of the Sassi were forced to live in spite of themselves after the war. A feeling of shame which was followed by a real cultural removal on the part of the citizens who lived in the Sassi was countered by an idea of revenge and redemption in the new generations which it brought, also thanks to the contributions and exchanges that they were with the artists and intellectuals who arrived in Matera, to reverse the situation and create new and interesting cultural and social experiences in some places of the Sassi which today are a full part of the cultural and social fabric of the city.
MUSMA - Museum of Contemporary Sculpture Matera
It is the most important museum entirely dedicated to contemporary sculpture in Italy, the only one in the world to have exhibition spaces in caves.
The exhibition area is located in the Sassi and occupies the entire historic building of the Pomarici family. In the underground lower floor the underlying theme is the union between environment and work of art while in the museum spaces of the "main floor" a historical-chronological discussion of contemporary sculpture is developed starting from the masters Medardo Rosso and Arturo Martini, up to the most recent avant-gardes.
Casa Cava is a multipurpose cultural center entirely excavated into the rock located in the Sassi of Matera housed in a fascinating rock complex that of the Sasso Barisano. The central body is represented by a pit quarry, a particular quarry system which was used to extract the stone blocks for buildings. Casa Cava is a concert hall, a theatre, an exhibition space and a conference center but also a tourist attraction within the Sassi of Matera. A place to visit where a perfect harmony between beauty and functionality has been achieved.
José Ortega arrived in Matera in October 1972 and came into contact with local artists and intellectuals. He finds it an ideal place to live and work and establish valuable collaborations. In 1974 he purchased a part of this house, which has now become Ortega’s House, a project designed to document the presence of the great Spanish artist in Matera and encourage the rediscovery and valorization of the local artisan tradition.
The exhibition areas host the works created by Ortega during his stay in Matera in the 70s.
Casa Noha is a cultural center of the FAI in the Sassi of Matera. The structure is housed in an apartment donated to the foundation by a family from Matera who lived there until a few decades ago. Inside the building it is possible to view the video “The invisible stones. Extraordinary journey through the history of Matera". The film, projected on the walls, ceilings and floors of the rooms, offers the visitor a complete reconstruction of the history of the city of Matera from its origins to today.