Vertical Cities:roof ridge
Wandering among i sassi is like walking on top of buildings...well you are walking on the top of the buildings.the architecture follows the movement of the hill,the acient houses were dug in the rock.It's a sort of multilevel city,the door of an hous is near the roof ridge of another one.
From Shameful Slum to UNESCO Seal of Approval
"A Typical Italian Hilltown"
Matera (55K pop) sits at the top of a ravine carved in its limestone outcrop by a narrow river (Gravina di Matera). Aside from its (in)famous Sassi it has a couple of 3* modern hotels, restaurants, an interesting Romanesque Cathedral, other churches a good Archeology Museum and an Art Museum boasting modern works by its "inherited son" Carlo Levi.(If you are unfamiliar with his story read our General Tip in Basilicata).Remember to schedule a guided tour of the Sassi. There are no roads, only wlaking paths and maps are confusing.
"The City Center"
The Piazza Vittorio Veneto lies at the center of the "old town". It is here that the passagiata occurs. The "new city" of tenements ,hospitals and playgrounds yhat the government erected is on a separate hill,; the evidences of industry are in another district. The social engineering is hard to see for the tourist. Outside of town we passed a giant Natuzzi furniture factory and in a shop window we were struck by the fine lines of the products. (We bought a piece of theirs last year here in N.O., quite inexpensive!) Only time will tell. Beneath the Piazza they have recently excavated a Roman hypogeum (no visiting as yet) and next to it the fountain is for the Caduti ( a War Memorial).
"Fine Living of Yesteryear"
The origins of the poverty of the peasants of Matera resides in the oppressive Spanish rule of the "Two Sicilies". Like on the companion island, rich palazzi and churches remain. The old townspeople seem unaware of the "change", or maybe it is my imagination. Many young people believe that modernity and tourism will take hold and there will be a golden future, but it is easiest to get here by car and that is not where tourism is in Italy