MATERA: a UNESCO World Heritage Site

SASSI di MATERA- Ancient cave dwellings

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This is a true walk back in time but amazingly people inhabited these caves until the 1950’s. Before the Sassi (historical center) were abandoned this was one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.

These natural caves dot the steep ravine and were first occupied back in the Paleolithic Age.

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Sassi di Matera
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Notice the Belvedere Piazzetta Pascoli standing tall in the background

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There were approximately 1,500 Sassi and they were expanded into living spaces as these peasant dwellings were occupied. Many of the caves had their ceilings extended to make a vaulted ceiling to expand the available living space so it was not so cramped.  This was a typical Sassi that we were able to tour and is open to the public. The rooms were dug into the soft limestone.  These were very poor people sadly.

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Casa Grotta di vico Solitario – kitchen area
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Even the animals lived in the Sassi notice the Bread on the table

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To tour this ancient city is a fascinating experience.  We walked down into an underground area where deep cisterns collected rain water for drinking.  There were 8 deep interconnected cisterns throughout this ancient city.  This 16th century cistern complex is right under the main town Piazza surrounded by historic buildings!

Check out the water lines on the walls!

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Piazza  Vittorio Veneto – Palazzo dell’Annuziata

This is a popular city for shooting movies like the remake of Ben Hur  starring Morgan Freeman which began shooting in early 2015 (below) and Passion of The Christ.  It is one of the oldest living cities.

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Right out of the movie Ben Hur

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Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo
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Love the ancient doors

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The Matera Cathedral.   Magnificent!

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Pane di Matera

Bread is this city’s symbol.  It’s form and unique taste are symbolic of a tradition that is still strong today. The bread’s shape is reminiscent of the hills or a mountaintop range. Each family had a brand on their bread using a wooden stamp so they could recognize it in the shared ovens. It has a slightly salty taste with a crunchy crust.  This traditional bread goes back to the Kingdom of Naples in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The wheat which is grown in this area has a unique and distinct flavor and the preparation of the yeast uses fresh fruit!

Again, we had a wonderful guide who regaled us with all sorts of history and stories. Thanks Giovanni! Next up Lecce! Follow along as our journey continues!matera-18

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