Matera is the second main city of the Basilicata Region, located on the border of Apulia, known as the city dei Sassi (of the Stones), a historic district, originated from a prehistoric (troglodyte) settlement, declared in 1993 a World Heritage Site of the UNESCO. A unique example of city excavated in the stone, where the rural settlements are built along the steep face of the canyon in which the stream Gravina flows. The city presents itself as a large sculpture, an urban miracle where it is possible to admire features of the different historic events over the centuries: a tangle of alleys and small roads, squares, neighborhoods, caverns, rural churches, cellars, house partially excavated in the tuff rock and partially built, where the vault roofs are the pathways to other houses. Here it is possible to walk through the Ages from the Paleolithic times to the modern ones.
Inhabited since the Ancient times, Matera, during the Ancient Greece Ages, had trading connections with the colonies of the meta pontine area. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the city was subject to various dominations: Longobardi, Saracens, Byzantines, Normans and Aragonese.
In Civita, the heart and oldest district of the city, rises the Cathedral of Matera. Built in 1270 in a Apulian - Romanesque style, it presents a Latin Cross plan with one large nave and two aisles. The statue of the patron saint, Maria Santissima della Bruna is located above the main door of the façade. On the side walls there are engraved statues of the Saints Pietro and Paolo, of Sant'Eustacchio and Santa Teopista, to which the small church built under the Cathedral is entitled. The main feature of the façade is the rose window, divided by sixteen small columns (a sort of wheel of fortune).
Worth of mention are: the Convent of Sant'Agostino, built in 1594 on the ruins of an antique church entitled to Santa Maria delle Grazie, which at its time was built on the ruins of a rural church entitled to San Guglielmo; the Church of San Giovanni Battista, built in 1233 and the Church of San Vincenzo of Martella.
Between VIII and XIII centuries A.D., hundreds of monks gathered together started to built churches excavated in caverns, some underground and most coloured with superb frescos which are important expressions of rural art. Santa Maria della Valle, also known as La Vaglia, is the largest example with an external façade, built in 1303, preserves inside important frescos of the XIV century.
Worth a visit is the Crypt of the Original Sin, located on the Gravina di Picciano at 14 km from Matera. This specific place of cult is of the IX century and preserves an extraordinary example of the maximum level of art prestige, reached at those times.
Many other churches can be found walking around the city and not to miss are: the Monastery of S. Lucia delle Malve, the Convicinio of S. Antonio, the Church of Santa Maria de Idris, the church of San Giovanni in Monterrone, the church of Santa Barbara, the church of the Madonna delle Virtù, the church of San Nicola dei Greci.
Of major interest: the Tramontano Castle, in Aragonese style, started on request of Gian Carlo Tramontano, Count of Matera, but remained unfinished after the assassination of the Count in a popular riot against tax duties of 1514; the 600' Palazzo Lanfranchi and the Fountain Ferdinandea, built in 1832 on request of Emperor Ferdinando II.