Matera and the “sassi”
When we recall our best ravel memories, we tend to rank all the place we visited. Sometimes it’s not simple decide if a destination is better than another, since there are a lot of amazing places on this planet. Sometimes, on the other hand, we know at the first glance that that new place is simply The Best.
Matera, a little dot on the map, in a region totally off the beaten path, is one of this case.
This magnificent village, has a very long and important story: inside its historical neighborhood, the so called “Sassi” (literally the Stones) you can find buildings dating back to the Palaeolithic.
The city is built on top of an impressive and deep canyon, the Gravina, a natural structure typical of this regions. Looking at the whole city from the ravine, which is probably one of the best view of my life, it’s easy to tell how the town developed during the centuries. From the left, the Sasso Caveoso with its essential and ancient buildings carved in the rock, to the Sasso Barisano and its Renaissance building, up to the new city, on top of all, with its not so beautiful skyline.
Even if now Matera has been elected European Capital of Culture 2019, during the XX century the town passed through a long period of degradation.
This is the reason why it is not famous as other city in Italy, even if they’re certainly less interesting.
The good news is that thanks to that period, you can enjoy all the authenticity of Matera. Of course the tourism is growing, but you can still feel immersed in the atmosphere of the city, with its kind people and good cuisine, without all the disadvantages of the mass tourism.
half day lost through the alleys of matera
We decided to visit Matera in March. Probably this isn’t the best period if you don’t like the cold but during winter you can enjoy the silence of the empty streets and feel immersed in the city atmosphere.
We didn’t have much time, so we decided to take a walk through the Sassi without any program or itinerary. We started our tour from Vittorio Veneto Square and we stopped our walk only to take a fast and light lunch. It was like during that day, we were in another époque totally overwhelmed by the history of that magical place.
Sasso Barisano | ©Paola Kervin
Since the first steps, starting from Vittorio Veneto square, you can enjoy the spectacular view of the Sasso Barisano. This neighborhood, at the moment almost totally renewed, has developed mostly after the middle Ages, with some relevant buildings and churches built in the Romanesque and Baroque period.
The Sasso Barisano is not built directly on the ravine, but it overlooks the city: the streets in some parts of the Sassi often run on top of other houses and the alleys, the stairs recall one of the impossible world painted by Escher.
Going down through the town, towards the canyon, we have the chance to look closely at the city. The houses distributed irregularly along the alleys are little and simple, but it’s not difficult to find some building or church with decorations.
Alleys in Sasso Barisano | ©Paola Kervin
After a long walk up and down the streets through the Sasso Barisano, finally we reached via Madonna delle Virtù, the street that run all along the ravine. The view of the Gravina will leave you breathless: along all the street you will have different point of view first of the canyon, then of the Sassi and the whole town.
View from the “Gravina” of Matera | ©Paola Kervin
With this long street, full of little restaurant, b&b and hotels, you can reach in little time the oldest part of Matera: the Sasso Caveoso.
Buildings on the canyon | ©Paola Kervin
After a curve the landscape radically change. Architecture begin more and more essential, sometimes houses consist in little cave dig in the rock. Now you will have in front of you the view of all the Sasso Caveoso: buildings merge in the cliff and is hard to tell what is built and what is natural rock.
The Sasso Caveoso and the Gravina | ©Paola Kervin
The entrance of the neighborhood is well signed by the beautiful church of San Pietro Caveoso, with its suggestive square overlooking the canyon.
San Pietro Caveoso | ©Paola Kervin
City view from Sasso Caveoso | ©Paola Kervin
On the other side of the ravine, you can notice the several “caves”, ancient refuges of the people that used to live this places centuries ago.
Matera Canyon | ©Paola Kervin
At this point we decided to go back to the car. We passed through the Sasso Caveoso, discovering new little alleys and passages.
Trough the Sasso Caveoso | ©Paola Kervin
There was one last thing to do, before to leave Matera: take the car and go to the viewpoint on the other side of the canyon. Here the wind is cold and strong, but it hasn’t stopped us: we enjoyed the silence and the view of this incredible place.
Belvedere of Matera | ©Paola Kervin
Belvedere of Matera | ©Paola Kervin