Sassi di Matera

The Sassi di Matera are a series of ancient cave dwellings in the comune of Matera, in Basilicata. In fact there are two series of caves: the Sasso Caveoso and the later Sasso Barisano. And yes, they are still inhabited…

*Viewpoint_Roof tops panoramic view of the Sassi

Cave dwelling is nothing unusual. It has been estimated that in China there are some 40 million people living in caves. In Europe, in prehistoric times, many of us lived in caves, at least for some of the year. The term ‘troglodyte’ (which just means cave dweller) has come to be used derogatorily for someone who is uncultured, ignorant, or perhaps behind the times. This is unfair. Though in modern Europe – and there are people living in caves all across the Continent – it is only the very poor who have traditionally been the cave-dwellers, today, with the support of the government and other agencies, that situation is changing, especially in places like Matera. In the Sassi di Matera, where there was once little but malaria, there are now thriving cafés and hotels, and a surprising amount of wealth.