Matera and Alberobello

CCI students, Faculty and Staff visited two UNESCO World Heritage sites this week.

Matera is in part a very modern Italian city in Puglia but it also a unique heritage. The Sassi or caves are carved out of the cliffs comprised of tufa stone. Historians believe that a good many of these cave homes have been lived in for millennia. However, the absence of running water and proper sanitation resulted in generations of people living in illness plagued poverty.  

Over time, the practice of bricking in the entrance ways to provide a door and one window did much to provide privacy but could not offset the continual dampness. During the 1950s and 1960s, the local government relocated the inhabitants to more modern housing and closed down the caves. However, a good many have been converted to restaurants, stores and hotels. 

When we first arrived at Matera, we went to a park that overlooks the two and provides an overview. After lunch, we drove over to the town itself to begin exploring. 

An hour away, lays Alberobello, a main centre of the trulli homes. These too are unique to this area though more modern. These homes first started appearing on the southern Italian landscape about 300 years ago. Originally, they were built using local limestone and without mortar. There seems to be considerable speculation about the origin of the design but there is no definitive conclusion. The design is simple – cylindrical limestone walls that are whitewashed, and include a door and a few small windows all of which is topped with a conical roof. Christian, astrological or original designs may be painted on the roofs. Should an owner wish to expand, he simply has to break down part of the wall and add another cylindrical structure.