Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Sassi of Matera

In the remote southern Italian region of Basilicata is the unique and ancient cave-city of Matera, famous for its sassi (stone houses carved out of the caves and cliffs). Haunting and beautiful, the sassi sprawl below the rim of a yawning ravine like a giant nativity scene. At first sight, the sassi appear as a jumble of faded stone huts - where narrow alleys and stairways lead every which way and streets are sometimes rooftops - but behind the house-like facades are simple caves, inhabited since Paleolithic times. 
The sassi of Matera tell a tale of poverty, hardship and struggle. The city’s history is best immortalised in writer Carlo Levi’s revealing book, Christ stopped at Eboli (published in 1945) - a title suggesting Basilicata was beyond the hand of God, a place where pagan magic still existed and thrived. Inside the cave dwellings, large families lived alongside their livestock and, even as late as the 1950s, without electricity, running water or sewage. In such unhygienic conditions, disease was rife, especially malaria. Instead of sweets or money, children begged for quinine. 
Reacting to outrage from the general public over the revelations of Levi’s book, the government forcibly relocated the inhabitants of the caves into modern housing in the ‘new town’ on top of the cliff. Ironically, Italy’s shame drew curious visitors to the sassi, especially after the area was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. Matera’s fame has since increased, attracting a trickle of inhabitants back into the caves. Today, many buildings in the sassi are crumbling and abandoned but a growing number have been restored and transformed into cosy abodes, restaurants and swish cave-hotels. For a glimpse into the past, the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario (off Via Bruno Buozzi) gives an insight into cave furnishings and living conditions of the 1950s. 
 Pictures by SPERA GERARDO - POMARICO (ITALY)


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Hello everyone and welcome in my photoblog. The photos are all taken in italy and specifically in basilicata. My small town called POMARICO is located in the province of Matera, ITALY. Good Vision! Dino.

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