The Sassi of Matera represent the ancient city of Matera . Sassi are divided in three part Sasso ” Caveoso “, Sasso ” Barisano ” and the district ” Civita “.

The Sassi of Matera were entered in the list of World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993 . They were the first listed site in southern Italy .

The inscription was motivated by the fact that they represent an extraordinary urban ecosystem , capable of perpetuating the most far prehistoric past ways of living in caves up to modernity .

The Sassi of Matera are an outstanding example of careful use in time of natural resources : water , land, energy.

In the report of the committee that verified that the place with the evaluation criteria of UNESCO , the candidacy of Matera fulfill the following criteria:

Criterion III : The Sassi and the Park of the Rock Churches of Matera are an exceptional testimony of a vanished civilization . The first inhabitants of the region lived in underground dwellings and celebrated the cult rock churches , which were designed so as to set an example for future generations for the way you use the quality of the natural environment for the use of the resources of the sun , rock and water .

Criterion IV : The Sassi and the Park of the Rock Churches of Matera are an outstanding example of an architectural and landscape witnessed significant moments in the history of mankind . These are held by the primitive underground dwellings dug into the stone facades of the ravine to the sophisticated urban facilities constructed with the excavated material , and well-preserved natural landscapes with important geological and biological characteristics to create urban landscapes by complex structures .

Criterion V : The Sassi and the Park of the Rock Churches of Matera are an important example of traditional human settlement and land-use representative of a culture that has , from its beginnings , maintained a harmonious relationship with its natural surroundings , and is now subject to potential risks . The balance between human intervention and the ecosystem shows a continuity for over nine millennia , during which parts of the settlement were cut into the rock gradually adapted in relation to the growing needs of the inhabitants . »


Sasso Barisano , turned north – west edge of the cliff , if we take as reference the Civita , the heart of the old city , is the richest and friezes carved portals that hide the underground heart .

The Caveoso, looking instead to the south , is arranged like a Roman amphitheater , with the cave dwellings which descend in terraces , and perhaps takes its name from the quarries and classical theaters . At the center of the Civita , rocky outcrop that separates the two Sassi , on top of which is the Cathedral . And finally in front , on the opposite side of the Gravina of Matera , the Murgia plateau that serves as a natural backdrop to this scenario, with the many stone churches scattered along the slopes of ravines protected by the institution in the Parco Archeologico delle Chiese rock of Matera , also called Park of the Murgia Matera .

The Architect Pietro Laureano in his book Giardini di Pietra said: ” Natural caves , underground architectural , tanks , huge enclosures entrenched , farms , churches and palaces , one another and coexist , dug and built into the tuff of the ravine ”

The description of Carlo Levi ‘s Christ Stopped at Eboli says something beautiful . His sister , who acts as narrator , the Sassi appear as two means funnels separated by a rock , the Civita , and the white church of Santa Maria de Idris , who seemed stuck in the ground . The two half funnels are the Sassi , and Levi have the form in which , in school , imagine Dante’s Inferno .

The neighborhoods, consisting of a set of houses that look out on the same open space, often with the well in the center, were the model of social life, solidarity and cooperation of the Sassi. The communal well where they washed clothes, the oven where they kneaded the bread made in the neighborhood as the basic unit of community organization. In homes, the light comes from above and the temperature is constant at 15 degrees, with the thermal mass of tuff marine that works by air-conditioning. If the rays of the summer sun, perpendicular and hot, remain outside, winter, slanted, slide the bottom of the caves. This degrading and overlapping of houses and cottages, is apparently chaotic, because then it is built with many devices. But the descent Sassi is a constant surprise. Among alleys and steps we come into formidable monasteries carved into the rock, Cenobi Benedictine and Byzantine laure, in which the cells of the monks huddle around an underground church.