Matera overlooks the Sassi declared to be world heritage since 1993. The origins of the first human settlements can be dated back to pre-history when nomadic peoples found refuge in the caves which progressively became real homes. Throughout the centuries the Sassi’s town has been conquered by Longobards, Saracens and then Normans and Svevi. Old Matera is one of the examples of fortified barycentric acropolis.
In the high Middle Ages there began to delineate the urban set of the Sassi districts.
After the occupation of the caves and the following fortification of the Civita, other slips and dwellings begin to be built.
If you walk through the Sassi, you can notice that the several dwellings do not have an established architecture and each dwelling is on a level different from the other.
You can also notice that the districts are divided in dwelling units located according to the natural morphology of the site. These units were constituted by a common space called vicinato connecting the various dwellings with the church.
That is one of the reasons why the Sassi districts have so many rupestrian churches.
The dwellings were carved out of a calcareous and porous rock which was easy to mould. The several water infiltrations inside the rock let the inhabitants collect potable and naturally decanted water into natural cisterns and gave the dwelling a constant temperature inside.
As a remembrance of a story on oppressors, you can find the Castello Tramontano, wanted by the homonymous Earl who became feudal lord in 1498 and was finally killed in the first half of 1500 in a popular revolt against the continuous oppressions. The castle has left unaccomplished.