Hanging with the Troglodytes in Matera, Italy

June 17, 2016

If you've ever fantasised about living in a cave or researching the life of a Troglodyte, then Matera in Basilicata, Italy is a must-see destination. Crowned a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993, hillsides are cluttered with dwellings dating back to the Paleolithic era.
Both architecture and engineering were simple then, hand-tools crafted the soft limestone and as needs arose and families grew, rooms were added and extended. The stoney neighbourhood (known as the Sassi) was the precinct for blue collar workers such as carpenters and shepherds yet homes had many comforts including both cooling (vents cut into the stone) and heating (in-house animals spiking the room temperature) systems. Each and every form had a function. Beds were raised high off the floor so space underneath could be utilised, drawers doubled as babies' cradles, hooks for utensils lined walls, and mules, chickens and pigs co-existed with the family. 
The Sassi is not just crowded with homes but with Rupestrian churches and cathedrals, categorised by rudimentary, humble facades with grand, fresco splattered interiors. 
Of course one must stay in overnight in a cave hotel or Bed and Breakfast in Matera for full immersion purposes. There is a multitude to choose from. Waking up in the morning to the expansive landscape is truly out of this world - see below for our rooftop view...
In the 1950s the Italian Government ousted families from the Sassi and relocated them to the new city as living conditions were deemed abominably unhealthy. As a result dwellings have either been converted into luxury hotels or abandoned. Hire a guide and get walking, the landscape begs attention and a detailed download of the life and times of our forebears - the Troglodytes.



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