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- The City of the "Sassi"

Matera is one of the oldest, continuously-inhabited cities on earth.
Its historical significance and magnificent Sassi district led UNESCO to declare it a
World Heritage Site
in 1993. Part of its appeal lies in the fact that humans have lived here since the Paleolithic era, in an extraordinary and unbroken chain of human connections from the dawn of mankind down to the modern era. Matera is both a modern city and a city out of time, with ancient ties to the land.
Its name derives from Mater, mother, the fertile womb of life. Its honeycomb of cave dwellings are an ancient palimpsest, layer upon layer, of human life in the area.

The cave dwellings, excavated out of the sheer face of the rock cliff, harken back to a primitive time, when man was at one with nature. The Sassi are an extraordinary example of the opposite of architecture - this is not a built city but a city dug out of the rock, a truly three-dimensional cityscape with endless nooks and crannies extending into the cliff face and under the dwellings themselves.

The Sassi are divided into two separate districts: the Sasso Barisano and the Sasso Caveoso, with its topmost layer, the Civita, presiding over it, culminating in the splendid Apulian Romanesque Cathedral.

Matera is known as "The City of Stone, of Water and of Light". It was made famous in the 20th century by the Piedmontese writer Carlo Levi, in his book, 'Christ Stopped at Eboli'. Over the years, a number of film directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Mel Gibson have used Matera as a backdrop for their films. Tourists who find their way to this remote, mysterious, stunningly beautiful city return again and again. The city also hosts numerous sculpture shows, art exhibits, concerts and film festivals. And now, Matera is the venue of the Women's Fiction Festival, a unique event in Europe dedicated to women's fiction and the craft of fiction writing.

What an ideal place to celebrate the ancient ties of the land and its women to the spirit of creativity!