Troglodyte homes give Matera, Italy new lifeMatera is a fascinating destination to visit, not only for the historic buildings in the town itself but for something more. Dotting the canyon’s walls is a honeycomb of caves, dug out some 9,000 years ago. They were originally home to the Paleolithic and other ancient people.
According to UNESCO, these caves are the best example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean. However, in more modern times, the caves have been the shame of Italy. It wasn’t too long ago that the poor of Matera lived in the caves in filth and squalor. In fact, in Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, occupants had no electricity or sanitation and illness was rife among the occupants.Finally, in 1952, local town management relocated around 20,000 residents from the caves, rehousing them in modern buildings. Since then the Sassi remained empty and abandoned, with some even bricked up.
At one stage, hippies moved into the caves, trying to make them their home and, thanks to their influence everything changed. The town’s council connected the Sassi to the town’s utility services, giving the caves a new lease on life. First, one cave became a small art gallery, and another was shaped into a tiny café. It was soon that the Sassi was occupied by a community of artists and writers.
Matera declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
After the hillside town caught UNESCO’s eye, the Sassi was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993. What was once a dreadful slum is now considered to be chic. According to the Telegraph, some of the caves were transformed into comfortable homes. More became beautiful boutique hotels, including Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita.However, potential guests should bear in mind that while this is considered a luxury hotel, there is no pool. Also, the rooms have little in the way of modern adornment, with no TVs, minibars, or phones.
What is considered a luxury is the chance to stay there, surrounded by the décor known from the origins of the Sassi. The hotel does have a reception area and a restaurant, but the guest rooms themselves are dotted around the hillside as a community.For anyone who feels a little claustrophobic about staying in a cave does have a choice of a number of hotels in the town of Matera itself. Meanwhile, the town also has a good variety of restaurants and bars. In fact, dining in Matera gives the chance to experience traditional dishes from the past.
If staying in the town itself, the streets of the Sassi are a fascinating labyrinth, just waiting to be explored. There are no cars up there and only endless steps carved from rock and winding pathways to get around. This makes Matera and Sassi a unique and wonderful place to spend a vacation.