Retrieve Sassi of Matera



It is customary to talk about history from the existence of written documents. For this Herodotus, author of the monumental description of the world and peoples written in the 5th century. to. C., is commonly designated as the “Father of History”. But for the history of cities, and in particular for places with archaic roots such as Matera, significant sources go far beyond literary and archival references. In the reconstruction of the origins and the urban evolution, the traces left on the territory and those engraved in collective memory, incorporated in the customs and the culture of the people, are crucial elements. The vestiges and the minimal settlements, as well as the typological constants perpetuated in constructive ways, as well as messages handed down in customs and immaterial culture, must be questioned. “There is no history in the Mediterranean without prehistory,” writes Fernand Braudel (Braudel, 1998). And, in fact, to understand the urban genesis of Matera it is necessary to place the city in the cultural phenomena part of the archaic Mediterranean world. In those ways of living that in the relationship with the roughness of the places they have introjected nature by harmonizing with it to manage its rare resources and build the landscape by drawing from it the best potential. Matera is an extraordinary example of this process that sees in the Sassi the complete fusion with the environment so that the inhabitant permeates the rock itself to become a city of stone and underground, intimately linked to the mother and matrix. His birth is thus in the context
The mythical of the original Mediterranean people quoted by Herodotus himself, who first summoned them by coining the term troglody: those who penetrate the caves (Herodotus, Le Storie, IV, 31).

Matera is still often read today as a medieval or even modern city reconstructed from the sixteenth century (Fonseca 1999) without considering that all inhabited towns live moments of abandonment and recovery, but this must not prevent them from placing them in a cultural continuity Longer than long and very long. And the ancient time of the time rises to Matera up to the prehistoric roots indispensable to understand the genesis and nature of the city. The Sasso Barisano’s alpine can look like a medieval abode, with the cathedral on the top and a road on the bottom, but in fact the constructed structures are the extroflexion of a more hidden, underground situation. The palatial façades are just a tufa shirt placed over a set of caves, terraced stairs, as is well apparent in the Sasso Caveoso. The same way of circling is a strange intervention realized by interbreeding a torrent, the so-called “grabiglione” “of the decisive role for the understanding and maintenance of the overall ecosystem. It is from these elements of ecological functionality, from the hidden hypogee roots that, in the past as far as the one of the oldest cities in the world, moves the urban evolution of Matera. The Sassi are the living example of that primordial world, called Stone Age, here miraculously preserved to the limits of modernity. They inhabited and digged caves for climatic and defensive reasons, but also to make the most of the potential of the sites, get water and save the soil. Throughout the southern Mediterranean basin, in its islands and peninsulas, alternating and catastrophic climatic conditions, with precipitation concentrated in a few months of the year and arid seasons, require careful management of water resources not present in the free state, lacustre or River, and arrangements to control its variability over time and the disruptive effects on the slopes. The city of the Sassi of Matera is not located at the bottom of the Gravina canyon as we should expect if this is to provide the water resource, but up, along the plateau and its rugged edges. It is the water of the skies, the rain and the frost, collected in the drains and caves, the resource of the complex troglody labyrinths of the Sassi and other stone towns of the Gravine. Human activity has been attested since the Paleolithic period by the numerous lithic finds found in the Cave of the Bats and the discovery of an entire hominid skeleton found in a karst cavity near Altamura dating back to 250,000 years ago. In Matera, the Grotto of the Bats inhabited until the epochs (Porto 1988) is a natural formation, but its structure consists of a tunnel with an entrance facing the slope and the other end emerging through a karst swallow on the floor is a model For subsequent artificial realizations.


With the Neolithic, from the seventh millennium, the first forms of stable settlement with the techniques of digging of the limestone plateau and the collection of the waters that have in the Sassi continuity up to the present time appear. Bell cisterns, horseshoes, canalettes are enclosed in deep moon-forming circles and ellipses and for this reason they are called truncated villages (Ridola 1926). Ditches did not have a defensive purpose, but were functional to Neolithic farming and cultivation practices. From the analysis of aerial photographs showing the perimeters of the thickest vegetation, drainage systems such as those of Daunia (Tinè 1983, Leuci 1991) appear to collect water, humus and corral labyrinths needed for agropastoral life practices. The recent excavation of the neolithic complex of Casale del Dolce near Anagni provided an authoritative confirmation of this hypothesis (Zarattini and Petrassi, 1997). Significant in this respect is the case of the Toppo Daguzzo ditch in Basilicata. This is endowed with works of considerable commitment that appear at the end of the Eneolithic – early Bronze Age (Cipolloni Sampò, 1999). Particularly clear is the remains of a palisade and a wall of which remained the base built into large blocks of stone and river stones. It seemed inexplicable the location of the wall that surrounds the moat externally in contradiction with any military logic. In the hypothesis of use as a water supply of the moat, the construction of the wall finds its logic
Protection of the precious water structure. In the Murgia Timone settlement in Matera an area of ​​about 2 hectares is enclosed by a large elliptical digging that has one smaller inner circle in one of the two fires.The ellipse has the largest diameter in the East-West direction and its apices, with perfect orientation, are located the two entrances to the village. At this time, the concept of ” place ” is born with its many values, functional, aesthetic, and symbolic. ” Lucus “, one of the possible etymologies of the term Lucania, is the clearing in the middle of the bush where light penetrates, is the space of identity and civilization separated from the wild world. The dwellings are formed by capannicole structures spread even outside the perimeters equipped with tanks and grain pits. At this stage the construction of the settlement is at the same time the structure of the territory and the expansion of housing is done by multiplication of the model. Both the material and symbolically the organization of the village is identified with that of the productive space. The great neolithic circles, with the ditches and their related activities, were the reasons for the community’s success and were also the sign of identity. Their use varied in tune with changing seasons, marking the cycle of climatic events with differentiated tasks. For this reason, the perimeters of the villages were installed with precise astronomical orientations, and the space organization, codified in traditional knowledge, was considered artisan and guarantor of the proper development of time, the very image of the harmony of the cosmos.


The age of metals provides new tools that facilitate the excavation of caves and cavities. These with the worsening of the environment are becoming more and more suitable for human settlements. In fact the progressive disappearance of the vegetable mantle leaves the villages on the surface without shelter, the defenseless soils and causes the shortage of wooden materials for construction and heating. The climate sees the alternation of cold winters and torrential summers. Water shortage makes meteoric and underground storage practices indispensable. Originated in the Neolithic mining techniques of the mines, the dwelling type of the courtyards from which the radial galleries spread. The model present in other distant areas such as Matmata in Tunisia and the Chinese arid plains is the origin of the court house used by Sumerians, spread in the classical and Islamic world. The house found near the Neolithic site of Murgia Timone overlooking the Sassi of Matera shows the advantages of this constructive type. The rectangular shape similar to Cretan Megarones is divided into three spaces formed by two open spaces and a third hypogeum. The court acts as an impulse to water and open and sunny space, but perimetrically protected, for food processing. The end part, used to collect waste and create humus, is the garden dug into the indispensable stone due to the soil’s poverty and the need to repair the plants. The cavities have a constant temperature throughout the year, providing ideal shelter for men and animals, grain storage and water retention. It is interesting to note that after the discovery of this structure and its release from sediments the tank in the hypogeum began to fill with water in the absence of rain. The device then began to operate using capillary infiltrations and condensation. They relate to water-gathering practices for functional and ritual purposes, also the bronze age tumulus formed by a double circle crossed by a corridor bearing the central excavated environment. It is significant, in fact, that these structures have been inserted right along the excavation of the archaic Neolithic fences, abandoned at the time of these accomplishments, but still function as moisture conveyors. The works found in Matera are quite similar to the prehistoric structures formed by Tahunas and hypogean environments of the Sahara (Laureano 1995). These are the so-called solar tombs consisting of concentric rings around a mound. They can be ancient methods of collecting moisture and frost and relate to cults related to such practices. For the same purpose, the dry stone structures spread in the arid lands of the Puglia, where the accumulations of stones collect the night brine and provide soil moisture (Fog 1961, Cantelli 1994). In fact, the roots of centennial olive trees are all facing the walls that characterize the agrarian landscape.Consequently, the structures of condensation and water conservation include walls, mounds, trulli and limestone rock masses called specimens. The devices perform their function both day and night. Under the sunny sun, the wind with traces of moisture infiltrates the interstices of the cumulus of stones which have a lower temperature in the interior because it is not exposed to the sun and cooled by the underlying hypogeum chamber. Lowering the temperature causes condensation of drops that fall into the cavity. The same accumulated water provides additional moisture and coolness by amplifying the effectiveness of the condensation chamber. During the night the process is reversed and condensation occurs externally but produces similar results. On the outer surface of the coldest stones condenses the moisture and deposits the frost that slides in the interstices and it collects in the underground chamber. Where rainfall is present, though sporadically, these devices are associated with rainwater collecting surfaces that evolve in terraced or courtyards organized for this purpose. It is precisely the temples and the cultural monuments that carry the function of catching water so that over time it will become increasingly difficult to trace the functional identification of the works. As with tumuli, kurgan, tholos, a process of utilization by sacred buildings of the forms of water structures is being implemented. This is for the concrete use of water in religious and funeral ceremonies, and because water wisdom was often conveyed by sacred or heroic personalities, or for the purely symbolic purpose of recalling the funeral mausoleum of the structures of water-producing structures, source Of life. Families, through related mausoleums and rituals, celebrate ancestors by reinforcing group identity and marking the strategic points of travel. In this way the concept of territory consists of a network of centers that, through seasonal transhumance, act in an integrated way, exploiting different ecosystems. The evidence of such practices, already advanced in the middle of the II millennium, has been in central Italy where landscape archaeological studies (Barker 1996) have verified the connection between highland villages, paths marked by water devices and cultural complexes, Stops and pastures.


Aristotle in Politics (VII, 9) reports that the first inhabitants of Lucania, the Enotri, were nomads and that their king Italo, from which it derives the name of Italy, created agriculture and established laws and ordinances. The foundation of these institutions was the practice that Aristotle says is still in use among the Lucani in his day, of the syssytia or banquets in common. These convivials were solemn celebrations, between the religious and the civil, celebrated int
Or at collective places and sanctuaries that sanctify the consolidation of permanent and organized communities. Through these practices and on the basis of the network of paths, sanctuaries and stable villages of transhumance, the transition from a settlement system disseminated on the territory to the creation of the city takes place. Matera does not witness such a sudden and massive urban organization phenomenon such as that occurring in the nearby Silbion or Silvium, the current Botromagno at Gravina in Puglia, where in the eighteenth century, to. C. under the thrust of the first Greek colonization, the Peucezi realize large wall enclosures and impressive terracing works (Ciancio 1997, AA. However progressively also in Matera, from a collection of villages scattered on the eyelashes of the highlands and high places like Murgia Timone, Murgecchia, Alto Serra, Tirlecchia, Piazza S. Francesco, Cappuccino, La Civita, Castelvecchio, Castello, Ospedale Vecchio You move to a model based on the intensification of the most suitable situations. The site of the current Sassi of Matera knows a privileged development because here the calcarenite bench is easy to digest is more often. The traces of occupation of the Bronze Age and Iron Age (Bracco 1935, 1936, Bianco 1986) in all areas of future expansion show that the urbanization process did not take place in oil stain from a single center, But it has occurred as an urban densification of a pre-existing multinational plot. Places of agricultural and pastoral activity, production units, family ties linked to a mound, a water tank, a cave, evolve into organized economic structures organized for defense and worship and endowed with activities of Production and service, from mills to weaving to warehouses for marketed products. It is the long process leading to the establishment of a common center. The Kings Pastors of the ancient Italic peoples meet, exchange alliances and patties: the civitas is born. This concept of citizenship, community, is expressed in the ancient language of the Lucani, the oscus, from the word quoted in a bronze table found at Banzi. The inscription dates back to the 2nd century BC. C. and confirms in Roman times the testimony of Aristotle on the habit of the Lucan peoples to celebrate common convents. Written in Latin and oscillos, the table contains the rules of public comits, ritual rallies in which the constraints were reasserted and solemnized, and the rules were laid down. At Banzi’s table, however, the laws are now those of Rome imposing a hell of military control over the entire region. The Lucans had been allied with Pyrrhus and later Annibale, and the Latin repression against them is tough. Lucania is devastated and plundered. Populations find the possibility of resistance to economic and demographic aging in the country’s rough characteristics. They offer concealment and defense of the unsightly cliffs and secret valleys where the parsimonious use of rare resources and wise habits of living allow people to live protected by an environment of which only the hard laws are known.The troubled history of later events, they see the coming of Byzantines, Lombards, Normans, Arabs, Slavs and Aragoneses. Renovated and enlivened by new contributions, ancient traditions are preserved by constituting the constant matrix on which the evolutionary process takes place. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, populations slowly begin to grow, branching from generation to generation. At the same time it extends the human habitation by adding one cell to another and then another in a transformation of the types typologically described by the 19th century historian lucano G. Racioppi (Racioppi 1889).Developing the original prehistoric techniques, Matera’s Sassi is an adaptive habitat system that utilizes the different water production principles in combination: capture, percolation and condensation. During violent rains, terraces and water collection systems protect the slopes from erosion and convey gravity through the cisterns into the caves. In the dry season, excavated cavities work at night as aspirators of atmospheric humidity condensing in the hypogeal tank cistern, always full even if not connected with external ducts. Many hypogeous plans are created overlapping by the long tunnels that sink in the subsoil.The inclination allows the rays of the sun to penetrate to the full when there is more need for heat. In winter, in fact, the rays are more oblique and hypogea penetrate. In the hot season, the sun closest to the zenith hits only the entrances of the hypogeans leaving them fresh and damp. The technical and functional solution is at the same time loaded with a strong symbolic value. The union between the sun and the earth generates water: life. The current situation of the Sassi of Matera is the result of the urban evolution and saturation of the archaic pastoral agrarian structure. With the same blocks of limestone excavated from the inside of the caves, they construct barrel-shaped tuff structures, the lamies, which are a projection outside of the hypogean environments. Of a complex of caves are the lateral ones being prolonged forward with the lamies so tends to close the horseshoe the terraced clearing and a secured central space is created. What was the irrigated garden and the pastoral throne turned into the meeting room of the extended family and social and social exchange: the origin of the neighborhood celebrated in anthropology studies (Tentori 1956). In the court is excavated the large common cistern that now collects the water from the roofs. In order to respond to this aim, they never have the sloping walls outside the dwelling. The roof is contained in the masonry walls that allow you not to waste a single drop of rain and convey it through landlords in the cistern. The overhanging stairway turns into a hanging garden. The lateral waterlines become the stairs and vertical links of the urban complex. The path of the paths and the narrow streets follows the channel system and this explains the intricate appearance, apparently inexplicable, but the result of the original water matrix (Laureano 1993). Medieval monasticism provides new lymph to this archaic fabric. The hermits, the parishes, the farmhouses placed at the checkpoints of the hydraulic works are the poles of the urban growth process. Around the two main drainages of the grabiglions that provide cultivable land and humus through the collection of the slurry, the two urban areas, called Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, are formed. At the center is Civita, the fortified acropolis, the ancient refuge in case of danger, on which, in the thirteenth century. On an older crypt, the Cathedral is built. At the edge of the plateau where are the big tanks and pits, the rock silos for the storage of grain, are located the workshops and craft workshops. The vertical movement of the city allows the use of gravity for the distribution of water and protects it from the winds that sweep the plateau. Matera is embellished with hundreds of rock churches excavated in the rock and decorated with magnificent Byzantine frescoes or built on the floor with monumental facades carved in tufa according to the style of the medieval, classical or baroque period.


The harmonious and ingenious system remains virtually intact for all subsequent centuries. The Sassi continue to grow along the grading scale
Terraces and extend into the plan with central wells and hypogee radial galleries. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a new system of gates and fortifications is the Civita and the city that is embellished with churches, monumental and residential complexes. But in the following centuries the slow agony of the southern pastoral agrarian economy determines the end of the economic centrality of the hypogeous bases for dairy and wool processing. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the economic and religious powerhouses abandoned the rocky slopes of the Gravina canyon to build convents and administrative buildings along the edge of the valley destroying or hiding the sixteenth century fortifications and occupying the part of the city where they had Business and grain and water storage systems. So progressively the grains (the grain), the tanks, the hypogeal court neighborhoods and the planks gardens are buried by fillings and buried by the streets and palaces of the new urban physiognomy. This dynamism is perfectly legible in the hypogea underlying the current Piazza Vittorio Veneto. The complete reversal of the ancient plot takes place in 1936 with the road projects of the Fascist government. The two torrentships of the grabiglioni that drain the large basins in which the Sassi, the Barisano and the Caveoso are organized are paved and paved. From the conveyor system of the waste water and wastewater disposal, there are two rolling roads connected together to form a ring road joining the Sassi. Traffic activity is a real cracking operation that implements penetrators outside the traditional organization of urban fabric made of staircases and underground passages that can be walked on foot or on the back of a donkey. The edge of Civita’s cliff on the Gravina canyon is cut off by caving caves, cisterns, inhabited caves and neighborhoods and interrupting the paths connecting with the murgical plateau in front. On the surface, the definitive destruction of the capillary network of ancient water collections results in a complete dependence on modern supply methods, which, constantly deficient, leave the inhabitants in a state of utter disregard. Thus, from the floor and slope side, the Sassi are separated respectively from the plateau and from the valley of Gravina, the natural setting to which they had always been closely linked, resulting in the collapse of the millennium ecological system. World warfare and difficult post-war conditions, with the exodus from the hinterland and the countryside, accentuate the densification and the living promiscuity of the Sassi, which, with about 17,000 inhabitants, still constituted the almost totality of the city of Matera. Neighborhoods, court houses, the same prestigious palaces shatter in more units where every family is reduced to living in what was just a cell of a multifaceted and integrated system. The storage caves, the cavities for the animals, the gardens and the tanks are homes. Transformation into domestic environments eliminates the very symbol of the historical genius of the Sassi. With time, the memory of their form and function is also lost and the resource management system on which the urban plot is based is unreadable. These conditions explain the definition of the Sassi as “national shame” which led to their emptying for hygienic and sanitary purposes. Nothing justifies, however, the extension of the operation to the entire fabric of about 3000 homes, of which only one half had been censored as unhealthy (Mazzarone 1956, Inu UNRRA Casas 1973). The emptying of the 1952 law did not take into account the same indications of the experts (Tentori 2001) and concerned not only the cave houses, but also buildings in good condition, monumental buildings and complexes that could be repaired with the simple introduction of efficient services. It is a necessity to create a new building-based economy that motivates such a massive intervention. Public funding to reallocate Sassi residents allows the construction of the famous decentralized model neighborhoods (Restucci 1991). Among these and the eighteenth-century center adjacent to the Sassi, it is determined to have a bundle of urbanization and of great land value. Area that will become the new city whose neighborhoods will be the periphery. In the following years, the latter, as well as the result of the most advanced architectural and town planning proposals, were abandoned as proof of the non-liability of Sassi’s living conditions in the migratory dynamics. The exodus from the Sassi was made possible by the pressure of a violent cultural shock, the triumph of the paradigm of shame, determined by the impossibility of civilization and the traditional dwelling, already undermined by the structural transformations described, to hold the confrontation with the construction , Predominantly conducted in the post-war Italian, of the system of economic and cultural values ​​of modernity. Whether or not they were the protagonists of the period, the collapse of the Sassi and the transfer of its inhabitants is part of the expulsion dynamics of agriculture and southern emigration aimed at industrialization and the consolidation of the consumerism model.


A decisive contribution to the formation of a Sassi imagination was the poetics of Charles Levi who spread the descriptions of “hell of hell” throughout the world as reported in “Christ has stopped at Eboli” (Levi 1945). Levi, while recounting a place marked by poverty and social subordination, exalts the Sassi and peasant civilization creating a fascinating valorisation. Once emptying during the 60’s, this aesthetic of misery is the guiding reference of a thread of thought that appreciates the Sassi as a lost world in some way to be saved as an untouchable testimony, museum, rendered necropolis or “Roman forum “Of despair (Levi 1967). From this position they divide two distinct, a moderate, more operative, the other ideological populist. The first one has the protagonist of the Scaletta group, active in the recognition and detail of the rock churches, immense patrimony of frescoes, crypts and true hypogeous basilicas present in the Sassi and the almost completely unknown murgical plateau and subjected to acts of robbery and vandalism Accentuated with the transfer of the inhabitants. Scaletta’s contribution is to have made it known with accurate publications (La Scaletta 1966) this reality and brought attention to the naturalistic set (Tommaselli 1988). The optic is that of the appreciation of the monument isolated in a context of ruins, the more seductive as they are. The second position is characterized by an ideological view that Sassi is the proof of social discrimination, physical crystallization also in their shape from the top down to a hierarchy of power (Jura Longo 1966). As such, they have an emblematic meaning. It is therefore difficult to make proposals that are not characterized by a strong ideological connotation, which are the only ones capable of redeeming the guilt that is caused by intervening in a place that is entrusted to the role of a populist symbol. In this cultural context, the national mobilization of intellectuals comes into being in the International Competition
And Ideas of 1974. The ambiguities of the debate are represented by the same introductory report to participants in the competition written by Manfredo Tafuri who marries the extreme hypotheses inviting in practice to non-design (Tafuri 1974). The disparity of the ideas presented reflects cultural confusion with proposals ranging from transforming the Sassi into a film scene, flooding them with water or admiring them from a bridge that joins the two banks of the Gravina to more concrete projects designed to recover. Among them is the proposal of the group of Thomas Giura Longo who inserts the Sassi into the problems of the historical centers that were the subject of important experiences in Italy during those years. The optics is that of refurbishment and modernization with the identification of areas to be demolished because they are considered incompatible with an existing and functional town center, the valorisation of others and the realization of a controversial scenic passage and a penetrating between the main square of Matera And Sasso Barisano. The project, as best rated, although not having a winner, will in fact be considered as such and, relying on the Recovery Plan group, will determine the future actions of the Municipal Administration. In 1986, the law of “Conservation and Recovery” of the Sassi of Matera was launched, which entrusts the Commune with the role and resources to address the restoration, giving the possibility for public and private operators to gain access to the Sassi and contribute to the restoration burden. The first operational interventions are implemented by Public Works through FIO funds.These are consolidation works with largely invasive techniques. It uses the pressure pump by drilling holes in the calcarenite and injecting concrete into which the nails are drowned. The tender rock of which the Sassi is made is so heavy and stiff. The materials introduced have transpirational coefficients and contrasting expansion ratios with antique structures that, by losing degrees of flexibility, are more susceptible to injury. In addition, cement does not bind for chemical and mechanical reaction with calcareous material. Often, the pump meets cavities and tanks that are completely filled with cement, creating unsustainable overloads and shattering normal water drainage. These interventions are conducted in a logic of maximum profit by realizing as many injections as possible. The regulations applied to the consolidations due to seismic disaster are used to inculcate concrete barrels and electrowelded nets. Inside, the typology is altered by reinforced concrete architraves embedded in tuff masonry to allow larger lights and ventilated floors that alter the tread plan by imbalancing the original volumes. Prospectuses are attacked by the large-scale practice of sewing and sculpting on the wall structures and the regularization of windows and balustrades. It is preferable to intervene on the high parts of the dwellings by decreasing the unusable hypogeum cavities due to the humidity. When the caves are not completely closed, an isolated wall with foam and synthetic panels is raised to separate the entrance part from the deeper ones considered irrecoverable. The result is a non-airy and un-illuminated moisture and mold accumulative area that at any given time invades the entire home. The same negative results are caused by trying to counteract moisture by waterproofing the chemicals internally with the walls. In this way it is the same transpiration of the inhabitants no longer absorbed by the masonry to create the condensation phenomena accentuated by the introduction of modern, airtight fixtures. The external masonry is subjected to deep abrasion with mechanical rotating tools or manual brushes by erasing the weather patches and exposing the underlying surface of the tuff slopes that is lighter and more vulnerable to atmospheric agents. The defense of the latter is carried out with a wide use of chemical protectors that create non-breathable films and extensive moisture spots due to panning, peeling and permanent separation of the layers. It is obvious to these disadvantages with the installation of more or less mimetic plastering and generally in the direction of the yellow-cheese, a practice that is affirmed with respect to that also authentically advocated to leave the Sassi of various colors according to the owner’s pleasure. From these interventions, the desire to normalize the Sassi is treated as a decommissioned neighborhood and best suited to popular housing, bringing them back to the standard and acceptable categories. Yet the group study led by Aldo Musacchio in the early 1970s already clearly analyzed the impossibility of triggering revival phenomena of historic centers with interventions in economic and popular construction (Musacchio 1971). The choices made in Matera are explained by the dominant role in the city of the economy associated with the construction companies that have grown since the creation of the displacement quarters in the Sassi and now unable to recapture in restoration companies or interested in this field only to public contracts high costs. This building power is also one of the reasons why it is not immediately possible to take the road, which later became a success, to the recovery of private dwellings by private individuals, but that of large public projects conferred on super dealers. Matera in the ’80s and’ 90s continues to expand by occupying all interstitials in the suburbs. Finally, the central area behind the Commune is cemented with the so-called Centro Direzionale a set of buildings that seriously alter the skyline of the Sassi already inattentive in previous years. The economy responsible for these operations is not conducive to Sassi’s housing recovery, which would be an alternative to new construction. During this period, the most serious damage is done to the hypogeum and to the network of pipes and tanks as often the debris of the yard is thrown into these marginal holes. There are also signs of more evident historical evidence than the case of the medieval burial plot, usually overlying the hypogean churches, which is drowned in a cement casting. It is believed that the promotion of the return of the inhabitants is possible only by erasing the Sassi brand of abruptness and introducing modernizations, renewals and homologations that alone can make them cities. In the absence of a definition of the specific values ​​of the Sassi these actions erase those fragile but significant elements of man’s commitment to edifying the ecosystem, destroying those aspects of diversity that make the Sassi unique and thus attractive to the modern city .


The reversal of the image of the Sassi with respect to the vision of misery and shame is accomplished with the entry on the list of UNESCO World Heritage List carried out in December 1993. The event is of enormous scope. At that time, only five sites were listed in Italy, all of them aulic and of great honor. Matera is the first inclusion of the South of Italy and the only one based on the recognition of popular values ​​relating to the construction of the cultural landscape which was not at all deserved at that time. In July 1993, the newspaper “La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno” asked: ” It deserves this ric 
Is it a town that has since made 100 billion for the valorisation of ancient quarters has done little more than opening yards, organizing river conventions and creating snooping offices ? “(De Vito 1993). Even more dramatically the magazine Panorama interpreted the nationally widespread idea of ​​the city saying ” no country could be worse than Matera ” with its inhabitants ” perched on the Sass i” (Selvaggi 1993).After the UNESCO recognition, the newspaper “La Repubblica” titled ” Matera come Venezia ” (Malatesta 1993), fully accrediting the city among the most prized goods in the world. The motives of UNESCO enroll in the Sassi a brilliant urban system that has been produced over the millennia thanks to the ability to use harmoniously the rare local resources: water, stone and light. The Sassi are the testimony of the very long story of human dwelling from the early neolithic moats, the excavation of the caves, their transformation into architectures. The whole constitutes a global system in which every smaller element is functional and bearer of complex meanings. From the pits of lichens, to the excavation traces left in the caves, to the signs of cavalry masters on the stone slopes to the shape of the hypogean cavities, to the articulations and fragmentation of the urban spaces with the openings or closures on the landscape, each element is functional to the practice Architectural and microclimate and resource control. Each of these characters must be safeguarded in the interests of all humanity. The UNESCO publishes Matera’s documentation in 30 languages ​​and 120 countries around the world, launching a formidable information and study campaign. In the following three years, the ICCROM is implementing an international restoration course with operators of all nationalities who interact with the Sassi Office of the Municipality of Matera and local officials and organize the monitoring of the interventions. These are increasingly being implemented by private car dealers and owners motivated by the renown and tourist attraction of the Sassi. It progressively improves the quality of recovery through continuous discussion, comparison of experiences and the activation of companies using traditional techniques. Matera becomes an urban laboratory cited as a case of success internationally (Laureano 1999). Thanks to this new image, the Sassi, where until the middle of the 1990s, not only the caves, but also the important palaces were sold at unpromising prices, are now demanded, increasingly populated and constantly rising in value. More than 3,000 people have come back to live and are renovating homes for a total of about 7,000 people. Matera is now the destination of ever-growing tourism and recovery is no longer just the will of intellectuals, legislators and administrators, but a process driven by citizens, backed by private investment and based on a solid economic return. It is clear that this raises new problems. The knot is not whether the protagonists of the process are the old inhabitants, their children or rather international intellectuals. It is important that intervening, dwelling or using the Sassi means recognizing them in the quality and values ​​of places by accepting their unconventional conditions. This does not mean a return to the past or its musefication. The pressure determined by the success of the Sassi demands with increasing strength the affirmation of the reasons for conservation. Just the commitment to this strategy with the resolution of living issues gives the city a proactive role that derives from the safeguarding and contemporary management of its historical values. From the ability to innovatively propose traditional technologies such as tank recovery to use rainwater resources, passive architecture, the use of terraces supported by dry walls to avoid landslides and soil degradation, The restoration of hanging gardens to make urban green, the reuse of caves and hypogeas to have natural air conditioning. And also from new solutions that in the logic of the tradition use advanced technologies capable of solving the problems of mobility, energy, cleaning and urban services. Matera’s driving experience is generalizable to Lucerne hinterland centers and Gravine habitat systems that have similarly similar architectural and environmental characteristics, but are still free from similar valorisation processes. It is a formidable example for the countries of the Southern Mediterranean and contributes in concrete terms to the problematic of sustainable city prospects promoted in all international locations. Attentive restoration creates new professionalism and reestablishes old trades and marginalized identities by laying the foundations for further opportunities for economic and human development: the preservation of physical signs becomes the safeguard of immaterial ones, the recovery of identity and cultural and spiritual values.


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