materamatera in basilicatapuglia 2015 – 8th entry

Matera, in Basilicata, is another UNESCO Heritage Site famous for its sassi. The Sassi di Matera – the stones-dwellings of Matera – originated in prehistoric times. (The original dwellings were caves carved into the side of the mountain. Some are still visible on the opposite side of the valley.) And the caves are thought to be among the first human settlements on the peninsula.

The top of the mountain is a different story. Here the Church and the nobility appropriated the land. The area is littered with cathedrals, monasteries, convents and palaces. The old monstrosities have been converted into expensive hotels. (Many of the room are in caves; the exteriors are built outside the rock, but the interior spaces are carved into the mountainside. The daily rates, to sleep in a cave can hit over $400 a night.) The above image is of the restorers working on the cathedral at the top of the mountain.

Derrick’s reaction to dwellings on the side of the mountain was similar to Rick’s; both did not understand how people lived in vertical spaces. Having grown up in a vertical space, Aprigliano is built on the side of the mountain, the sassi felt familiar and I knew immediately how to navigate the steep stairs and alleys.