|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1950s||new quarters were built and the inhabitants of the Sassi relocated. The whole quarter was abandoned.|
|1989||reevaluation of the cave houses and start of renovation projects.|
|1993||inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List.|
The old center of the town Matera is called Sassi, derived from the Italian or Latin word for rock or stone. And thats what it is: a rock or cave city. A rather soft rock layer along the right side of a ravine was used to carve out houses and churches for centuries. And although the Sassi is the center of the cavities, there are more all along the ravine. There are some ten cave churches within the Sassi, and over 150 in the whole area.
The underground sites of the Sassi are actually privately owned. Of course it is not possible to visit them. Some years ago there was probably the possibility to pay a tip to local children in order to guide one through abandoned caves. During the last years the city was developed and many underground sites were renovated and refurbished. There are numerous new underground hotels, shops, and restaurants. People start to use them again for living.
So it may be the most easy way to see underground structures, to visit some of the churches. Catholic churches in Italy are generally open all day and do not charge any fee. More fun, but definitely more expensive, is to stay in one of the beautiful modern hotels whih were built into the caves. There are several of them, most of them rather expensive, especially for the generally low price of this rural region in poor southern Italy.