Frizztext’s A toZ challenge: M is for Matera

It’s time again for Frizztext’s A to Z Challenge, we’re onM. From my travels, M could be for Madrid, Maginot line, Mainau, Malancrav, Malcesine, Maramures, Meißen, Menton, Milan, Modena, Moldova, Montreuil sur Mer, Mosel, Munich….and more!

But I am going for Matera in Basilicata, Italy. This place was to be the subject of another “Italy off the beaten track” post, but I didn’t get around to it! This time we’re heading off to Southern Italy, to the remote, unspoilt and undeveloped region of Basilicata. The landscape is almost otherworldly, quite barren and rugged, riddled with ravines. Historically, this region has seen abandonment, neglection and poverty.

Matera is said to be one of the world’s oldest towns. It is sited on the side of a deep ravine, where the caves that dotted the gorge were adapted to become dwellings in palaeolithic times. And the inhabitants remained. The settlers dug into the rock, creating dwellings in the rock, one on top of another, saving space. Over time, they created an ingenious system of canals to collect water and regulate the flow of sewage.

The problems came as the population increased, and people were living in crowded conditions in unsuitable, unhygienic one-room cave dwellings, lacking running water. Poverty in this region of Italy was rife, and malaria endemic. By the 1950s more than half of Matera’s population still lived in the sassi, and families often had six or more children. Because of the grim conditions, infant mortality was high, around 50%. Eventually, as a result of publicity by such people as Carlo Levi (author of Christ Stopped at Eboli) the authorities acted and relocated thousands of inhabitants to new government housing schemes.

The Sassi of Matera are now a UNESCO World Heritage site.




Detail, Matera

Detail, Matera

Take a trip over to Frizz’s blog for more takes on ‘M’..










  1. Love the clouds and the light 🙂

  2. Another UNESCO site, but not one I have visited. I have been to Madrid (and Manchester, but you didn’t mention that one). A lovely post Sue and of course I love that door…
    Jude xx

  3. What a picturesque town! And you captured it beautifully in gorgeous light and with a very dramatic sky. The detail of the blue door is great, too, and of course that little of red is really what makes the photo stand out.

    • Thanks, Otto…I was very fortunate with that scene…it was all laid out in front of me for the taking on the day my friend and I arrived. Talk about lucky! And the door I noticed one evening.

  4. Suzanne

    ‘That first shot is brilliant – it’s the kind of photo I always wished I could take when I travelled in Europe. Although you write about the city’s sad history your photo conjures up visions of princes in velvet cloaks and damsels drifting about in white muslin gowns.

    • Crikey, I love the way your imagination has run with this! The city’s sad history, alas, I don’t think would have allowed your vision… 😦

  5. Looks magical Sue – this blogging lark gives me itchy feet!

  6. Excellent piece. I’ve spent quite a lot of time and even lived in Rome a year and a bit, but have never made it to Basilicata. Your piece makes me want to change that. Good job! Thanks for your visits too. -Arran.

  7. poppytump

    Would LOVE to wander through all the little alleys and snickets here Sue . I know it has a rather sad history … but you caught it looking so very appealing in your photo whether you say you were lucky or not … great contrasts in the frame .

  8. Such a beautiful looking place, Sue, and your photo totally does it justice. I’ve seen quite a few shots of it before, but none better. 🙂

  9. Matera- a memory fixed in my brain- i sassi but also the book Christo e` fermato a Eboli.

    • Carlo Levi’s book is marvellous, very humane. I also have the film that was made in the 1970s which is quite faithful to the book…

      • Yes I saw that film many years ago and now I cant find a copy. The original is superb- which is why I went to Matera.

      • I managed to get an original VHS tape from Amazon -apparently the DVDs are no good as they have been drastically shortened and the quality is poor.

  10. reading your weekly INTRO, I always feel like coming home again: “M could be for Madrid, Maginot line, Mainau, Malancrav, Malcesine, Maramures, Meißen, Menton, Milan, Modena, Moldova, Montreuil sur Mer, Mosel, Munich….and more!”

  11. M is an easy one, but I love your choice Sue. A terrific shot.

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  13. The two photos are wonderful, Sue. Thank so much.

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