This is a short story about Matera, a nice rediscovered place in Italy where I use to offer one of my 2 days photography workshops.
THE SASSI DISTRICTS; a 2 days photography workshop
The Sassi of Matera are made up of two natural amphitheatres entirely carved out of the rock: the ‘Sasso Barisano; to the north-west, which is largely formed by palaces and traditional houses, and the Sasso Caveoso, to the south,mostly made up of cave-houses. The ‘Civita’ district, which is the oldest inhabited group of buildings around the Cathedral, overlooks the lively panorama of the Sassi. As the day goes by, the colour and atmosphere of the town centre change significantly: during the day, the dazzle of the sunshines on the white lime stonerock; at night,when the moonlight glows on the Sassi, you will experience the unique feeling of being in a huge nativity scene, with hundreds of small lights scattered all over. And it is precisely the timeless beauty of Matera’s unique townscape that made it a natural film setting, which has inspired many Italian and foreign film directors.
Matera’s role in the film making industry began with The Gospel according to St.Matthew (1964) by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who said that he had found in Matera those places and faces that went lost in Palestine. Other important film productions include: KingDavid(1985) by Bruce Beresford, The Sun Also Shines at Night (1990) directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, The Star Maker(1995) by Giuseppe Tornatore, The Passion (2004) by Mel Gibson, and the most recent Ben-Hur( 2016) by Timur Bekmambetov and The Young Messiah (2016)directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh.
Matera is the 3rd oldest city in the world (1. Aleppo in Syria 2. Jericho in West Bank); it was built above a deep ravine called Gravina of Matera that divides the territory into two areas. Matera was built such that it is hidden, but made it difficult to provide a water supply to its inhabitants. Early dwellers invested tremendous energy in building “Cistern” and systems of water channels.
The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcareous rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of them are really little more than small caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi a street lies on top of another group of dwellings. The ancient town grew up on one slope of the rocky ravine created by a river that is now a small stream, and this ravine is known locally as “la Gravina”. In the 1950s, as part of a policy to clear the extreme poverty of the Sassi, the government of Italy used force to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to new public housing in the developing modern city.
Not so incredible if you think that these were the “houses” used by the population until 1970’s:
The Main entrance and the only one light source
Largest house; main entrance with three windows
Here there are more rooms; probably the number of people used to live here was around 15 – 20
Activities and or commercial business where also located in the Sassi; here below what probably was a sort of vinery storehouse
Again, same main structure: a single main entrance and one – two rooms where humans and animals used to live together.
The newest houses, in particular on the Barisano site, are more traditional houses with their local characteristic design
Thanks to a new touristic interest, more buildings are now restructured in luxury houses and hotels; old artisans and young local “artists” are opening their own activities to sell their handmade pieces.
Matera is for sure a nice photography experience and an important educational place in terms of lights and shadows situation; very nice landscapes but incredible small details also.
For any comment, suggestion, complain or simply, to have more information, feel free to contact me by email. Best, Vinicio
reportage, portrate, bookcell.: +39.380.3158202