Sassi of Matera
The Sassi are the oldest part of the city of Matera and constitute an entire city carved into the calcareous rock, locally called "tuff". World Heritage Site since 1993, they represent a complex housing system, perched on the slopes of a deep valley: the Gravina. The alternation of built facilities and stylish with underground labyrinths and cavernous meanders, creating a unique landscape. Years ago Sassi was the heart of civilization, today Sassi has been renovated and they come alive and take your breath away especially at night when the lights of the houses make them a real crib. The Sassi are developed around the Civita hill and consist of two large districts: Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso.
The Regional Natural Archaeological Park of the Rock Churches of Matera, simply said Matera's Murgia Park, is one of the most beautiful rocky landscapes of Italy, which testifies the ancient relationship between man and nature. The man has populated the Murgia since the prehistoric age, from the Paleolithic (Bat Cave) and back to the Neolithic age (village Murgecchia, Murgia Timone and Trasanello). The unattainable vertical walls of rocks and lush vegetation that develops within the Park boundaries, determine the formation of natural environments such as to allow the presence of rare species birds. These include the Lesser kestrel that is among the most important European species. In Matera it is called "striscignl" in the dialect definition. This name is onomatopoeic because of the verse that he emits. It can be considered a hawk in miniature. It 'a small migratory hawk that comes from South Africa between early March and the end of April to nest between the roof tiles, holes in the walls or on the cornices of the buildings or the old town churches and Sassi. In Matera it was surveyed about 1,000 pairs. They feed on insects such as grasshoppers, butterflies, beetles and crickets, from which they are named. After the reproduction, between August and October, they are ready to winter.
The construction of the castle began in the early 1500 by the Count of Matera Gian Carlo Tramontano. Built in Aragonese style, was designed with the aim to defend the city along the exposed side with its three towers and a city wall that should have included twelve defence towers , but it’s unfinished because of the murder of the Count, that occurred during a violent popular uprising the 29 th of December 1514. The high cost of the project, amounting to over 25,000 ducats, and the very low salary (six money daily), helped to toughen the souls of Matera’s citizens, which put an end to the abuses of power in one of the more violent pages of the city's history. This episode is recalled in the motto of "Bos lassus firmius figit pedem", (the tired bull sinks his paw more firmly), to highlight the violence that can reach a peaceful people tired of harassment.
Vittorio Veneto’s square
Vittorio Veneto’s square, previously called “Plebiscito’s square” was also known as "fountain square" because of the presence of the great "Fountain Ferdinandea" monumental, created in 1832 to collect the water coming from above the castle hill "De Montigny".
- Ferdinandea fountain, restored by King Ferdinand II of Bourbon in 1832, was originally situated at the foot of the castle hill and collected the water from that hill. After World War II, when its procurement function finished, it’s been moved inside the town park. In April of 2009 it was reported in its original location in Vittorio Veneto’s square.
- Annunziata’s Palace, an eighteenth century palace located in Vittorio Veneto’s square, first hosted the convent of the Dominican Nuns, and later became the court in 1865 and the secondary school. Today, the building dominates the central square of Matera and it is home to the Media Library, the Provincial Library and the Cinema.
- Hypogeum Vittorio Veneto’s square, located under the main square of the city and came to light a few years ago, it contains numerous underground rooms and an ancient underground cistern, called the “Palombaro lungo”, and a tower that had to be near the Castello Tramontano.
- The Palombaro lungo, is a huge water tank beneath Piazza Vittorio Veneto, it has some sections built three thousand years ago, while the most recent are from the 1700s, all this is part of Matera’s city Plan.
Cathedral of Madonna della Bruna and St. Eustachius
The cathedral has been built in the Apulian-Romanesque style in the XIII century on the highest spur of the Civita, the oldest district of the Sassi. It is the main site of worship of Matera and it is also the mother church of the Archdiocese of Matera-Irsina. It is an excellent fusion of art and faith, in fact, inside, you can observe the majestic frescoes and decorations of high level, as well as numerous altars used by noblemen to celebrate the rites. During some works of excavation inside the Cathedral, two finely frescoed chapels has been found and it gave additional value to this impressive and magnificent structure.
The Tear of the Chariot of Bruna
Among the various legends about the birth of this patronal feast, certainly the most fascinating is the one that tells of a man who decided to offer a ride to a girl on his chariot. When they arrived at the gates of the city they were going to say goodbye, but the woman turned into a statue of the Virgin and whispered to the astonished man "It's so, on a decorated Chariot, I want to enter every year in my city." And this is exactly what occurs every year in Matera the 2 nd of July, the day of the patron saint's day in honor of Maria SS. of the Bruna. The statue of the Virgin is carried in procession on the chariot all afternoon long, along the main streets crowded with devout people, until it arrives in the evening in the square of the Cathedral where it performs the "three rounds", a symbol of taking possession of the city by the SS. patroness. The statue, accompanied by the Archbishop, is then placed in the Cathedral. After that it made the rounds, the chariot, surrounded by "knights" is led and protected until the arrival in a overflowing Vittorio Veneto’s square where it is delivered to the crowd and, in a riot between the sacred and the profane, it takes "the strazzo" that means the assault and the destruction of the chariot from the crowd to grab of a part or a heirloom auspicious.