The ancient town of Matera, with its “Sassi” district, is a fascinating town.
It will delight all your senses.
It’s located in Southern Italy. Nested in a harsh yet beautiful rocky landscape: the karst semi-arid plateau streaked with canyons called Murge.
The ancient Sassi
Sassi is the ancient heart of Matera. A labyrinth carved out in the slopes of two distinct narrow canyons of calcareous rock, full of cave dwellings and old, beautiful buildings.
To visit the area a bit of physical effort is required. What you need are a decent physical shape and comfortable shoes. With this basic equipment, you’re ready to go and get lost in the ancient part of the town.
You’ll find many blind alleys, lots of steps and no helpful sign.
Descend the hill slope until you get to the bottom of the valley. Always look around because surprises are everywhere: dwellings dug in the rocks, old beautiful palaces, churches.
Best times for pictures
The light is constantly changing. Here are some simple rules for the photographers, to keep in mind:
- early morning is the best time to get pictures of Sasso Caveoso from the Cave churches Park or of Sasso Barisano from Civita, the oldest part of the town;
- late afternoon is ideal to get pictures of Sasso Barisano from the viewpoint of the modern city.
While dealing with stairways and climbing paths, you’ll slowly realize that Matera has its own soundtrack.
At night percussions are rattling from the bottom of Sasso Barisano, while from a corner of Sasso Caveoso you can hear somebody playing the saxophone. Going on towards Punta Della Civita (that hosts the academy of music) here is a new melody: piano and reeds in counterpoint.
The modern town
Don’t even miss the modern town. Piazza Vittorio Veneto is its real centre. Nice buildings, a cinema, bars and restaurants. A viewpoint over the Sassi area (Civita and Sasso Barisano) is the cherry on the pie!
Below this terrace, there is another, ancient world. Ruins of the medieval Matera. Lanes, shops and the water tanks that provided water to the whole town. You can visit it during the weekends and it’s highly recommended.
A fragment of Spain is then waiting for you not far from the cathedral. Via Domenico Rodola flanked by beautiful buildings and trees in its final stretch that leads to the majestic Palazzo Lanfranchi and to another scenic viewpoint over the Sassi.
A different kind of visitor
While walking, every now and then look at the sky, where falcons are flying around!
Lesser kestrels are cuddled and respected in Matera: artificial nests are placed outside the buildings for him, and the birds quite obviously welcome this treatment, since, as all falcons, they don’t build nest structures; a large colony of almost 3.000 Lesser kestrels lives in Matera and it’s beautiful to see them flying around the cathedral and over the city centre.
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