Caves near Matera in Puglia, Italy
Caves on the outskirts of Matera in Puglia, Italy
Matera is known for its ancient cave dwellings and was often cited as "one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world."
By the late 1800s, Matera's cave dwellings became noted for its poverty, poor sanitation, meager working conditions, and rampant disease. The caves were evacuated in 1952, the population was relocated to modern housing, and the Sassi (Italian for "stones") lay abandoned until the 1980s. Renewed vision and investment by the European Union led to the cave dwellings becoming a noted historic tourism destination, with hotels, small museums and restaurants. Known as la città sotterranea ("the underground city"), the Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. In 2019, Matera was declared a European Capital of Culture
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