You find it deep in Southern Italy, nested in a harsh yet beautiful rocky landscape: the karst semi-arid plateau streaked with canyons called Murge.
Sassi are the ancient heart of the city, a labyrinth carved out in the slopes of two distinct narrow canyons of calcareous rock, full of cave dwellings and old, beautiful buildings.
To visit the area a bit of physical effort is required. What you need is a decent physical shape and comfortable shoes. With this basic equipment you’re ready to go and get lost in the ancient part of the town.
You’ll find many blind alleys, lots of steps and no helpful sign.
Just descend the hill slope until you get to the bottom of the valley and always look around because surprises are everywhere: dwellings dug in the rocks, old beautiful palaces, churches.
The light is constantly changing; here are some simple rules for the photographers, to keep in mind:
- early morning is the best time to get pictures of Sasso Caveoso from the Cave churches Park or of Sasso Barisano from Civita, the oldest part of the town;
- late afternoon is ideal to get pictures of Sasso Barisano from the viewpoint of the modern city.
While dealing with stairways and climbing paths, you’ll slowly realize that Matera has its own soundtrack.
At night there are percussions rattling from the bottom of Sasso Barisano, while from a corner of Sasso Caveoso you can hear somebody playing a saxophone. Going on towards Punta della Civita (that hosts the academy of music) here it is a new melody: piano and reeds in counterpoint.
Don’t even miss the modern town: Piazza Vittorio Veneto is its real center, with nice buildings, a cinema, bars and restaurants, a multicolored fountain and a viewpoint over the Sassi area (Civita and Sasso Barisano).
Below this terrace there is another, ancient world: ruins of the medieval Matera, its lanes, shops and the water tanks that provided water to the whole town: you can visit it during weekends and it’s highly recommended.
A fragment of Spain is waiting for you not far from the cathedral: via Domenico Rodola flanked by beautiful buildings and trees in its final stretch that leads to the majestic Palazzo Lanfranchi and to another scenic viewpoint over the Sassi.
While walking, every now and then look at the sky, where falcons are flying around!
Lesser kestrels are cuddled and respected in Matera: artificial nests are placed outside the buildings for him, and the birds quite obviously welcome this treatment, since, as all falcons, they don’t build nest structures; a large colony of almost 3.000 Lesser kestrels lives in Matera and it’s beautiful to see them flying around the cathedral and over the city center.
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