The bus was quiet as we drove into the heart of Basilicata to reach Matera, with everyone relaxing after a great meal. Thankfully the rain had abated by the time we got to Matera. We were greeted by our guide, in the main square. Fodor’s described Matera as the only place in the world where people lived in the same houses as their ancestors did some 9000 years ago.
This is truly a city lost in time. The homes are known as Sassi, or houses of stone and were excavated by hand into the side of the gorge, one built one on top of the other. From a distance, it looks like a beehive of caves! Keeping in mind that Matera is a very dry place, the ancient inhabitants had a sophisticated water capture system whereby rain water was funneled into homes and main cisterns.
It was true community living, people were self sufficient, their animals lived in the sassi with them to help generate heat a well as protect them. It was explained the sad history of this city as the government condemned it in 1952 and evacuated all the inhabitants due to sanitation and health reasons. As a result the city became a ghost town and was left to ruin. After 2 hours of touring this city’s elaborate system of staircases and alleyways we were ready to get back on the bus to our next stop. — Stay tuned!