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written by Emilio Aronica

Ostuni città bianca

Matera is a town and a province of Basilicata, a region in the south of Italy.
It is beautiful and very well known for its historical centre called Sassi.

The Sassi di Matera, which translation is 'stones of Matera', are very ancient dwellings used as a prehistoric troglodyte settlement probably the first one in a land that today is Italy. Because of this, the Sassi are considered World Heritage Site by UNESCO. They are dug into the calcareous rock where a rives was.
Now it is just a small stream, the Gravina. This area is very important from the archeological point of view and many authorities are interested in preserving and promoting this part of the town including the Italian Government, UNESCO and Hollywood. This last is particularly interested in the Sassi because they are incredibly similar to the town of Jerusalem and many films have already been shot there such as The Gospel According to St Matthew by Pier Paolo Pasolini, King David by Bruce Beresford, The Passion by Mel Gibson and many other films of this current and non- religious films such as The Omen by John Moore.

In the past the area of the Sassi was very poor but today there are hotels, pubs and businesses to revamp this unique place. The position Matera lies in a small canyon eroded by the river Gravina and it is also known as the Subterranean City because even though the main entrance of the Sassi are visible, there are many places below the surface such as cellars, cisterns and hypogeums.

The Tramontano Castle is the only building of any significance on the surface apart from the Sassi. Many other important buildings such as the Palombaro Largo are hidden underneath. This castle was built in the 16th century by Gian Carlo Tramontano Count of Matera and has three large towers. Under the castle some Roman cisterns are visible.

The Cathedral of Matera is a wonderful example of Apulian Romanesque style along with San Pietro Caveoso and San Pietro Barisano.

Food and amusement Matera is a town for everybody to visit and offers a variety of very good dishes. The most famous is the Ciallèdd made of bread, potatoes, herbs, betroot and eggs. In Matera it is also possible to eat asfodeli. They are flowers rich in proteins that were eaten by monks during Lent. Today, they are a very special dish.

Notwithstanding its old tradition, Matera is a very modern town. There are many parks where children can experience a day out in the open air but also restaurants, cafés, bars and discos for people who want enjoy the night.

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