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Matera, Italy

Updated: Aug 29, 2018

In the remote corner of Southern Italy, in the Basilicata region, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is one of the most unique and spectacular places in the world.

Most of the caves are now homes, hotels, restaurants and bars, but on the edge of town in Sasso Caveoso you can wander through uninhabited caves and get a sense of what it was like to live here years ago. It’s a rawer side of town and is the most fascinating.

Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in history dating back to the Palaeolithic period. On the other side of the ravine you can see the simple forms of the Neolithic caves where people lived 7,000 years ago.

Cave Life - Then & Now

Buildings climb up and down the hillside, houses piled on top of each other, the roofs of some acting as streets for those above. They were carved out of the rock and the original caves extended with facades that look like normal homes.

More and more old cave-houses are being converted into comfortable modern dwellings, into hotels, B&Bs and restaurants. You can take guided tours of the sassi and visit historic reconstructions of cave life. Matera was the one of the filming locations for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, with shots showing the sassi and the gorge below. Walking down a steep staircase will plunge you into a magical world that doesn’t quite feel real.

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