Photographer's Note

The Sassi district is the ancient heart of the city of Matera.

The Sassi surround the Civita and constitute a city unto itself, completely carved out of the face of the calcareous rock -what is known as tufa stone. The Sassi district is a system made of dwellings carved out of the steep slopes of a deep valley with surprising and unusual features called the ‘Gravina’.
Elegant and multi-faceted buildings are interspersed with underground mazes and cave labyrinths, forming one single stunning landscape.
Over the course of the centuries, the city has changed its shape over and over again in an ongoing dialogue between rock and architecture, canyon and bell-tower, flowing into a cityscape of incomparable beauty and distinction.

This is the older unrestored section of Sasso Caveoso.

Until fifty years ago this part of the city was still populated by the poorest of the 'Materani'. During the 1950s and 1960s, fifteen thousand people were forcibly removed from the Sassi and rehoused in modern districts on the outskirts of town. Since then the area has been officially cleaned up and is being gradually repopulated, and in 1993 was prefabricated a World Heritage Site.

Nowadays it’s hard to picture the squalor that previously existed here, as described by Levi’s sister, in 'Christ Stopped at Eboli' , who compared the Sassi to Dante’s Inferno , so horrified was she by their disease-ridden inhabitants. “Never before have I seen such a spectacle of misery,” she said. The children had “the wrinkled faces of old men, emaciated by hunger, with hair crawling with lice and encrusted with scabs. Most of them had swollen bellies and faces yellowed and stricken with malaria.” Pursuing her, they begged not for coins but for quinine.

This image was darkened and given a high contrast in black and white in hopes of creating a reflection of the past...a glimpse of the 'new' Matera juxtaposed.

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