is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Matera and the capital of Basilicata from 1663 to 1806. The town lies in a small canyon, which has been eroded in the course of years by a small stream, the Gravina.
Known as "la Città Sotterranea" (the Subterranean City), Matera is well known for its historical center called "Sassi", considered World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1993
, along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches.On October 17, 2014, Matera was declared Italian host of European Capital of Culture for 2019.
In 1927 it became capital of the province of Matera. On September 21, 1943, the Materani rose against the German occupation, the first Italian city to fight against the Wehrmacht.
Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the "Sassi di Matera" (meaning "stones of Matera"). The Sassi originate from a prehistoric (troglodyte) settlement, and are suspected to be some of the first human settlements in Italy. The Sassi are houses dug into the calcareous rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of these "houses" are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. The ancient town grew in height on one slope of the ravine created by a river that is now a small stream. The ravine is known locally as "la Gravina". In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city.
Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses were, and in most areas still are, mostly unlivable. Current local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented, and has promoted the re-generation of the Sassi with the aid of the Italian government, UNESCO, and Hollywood. Today there are many thriving businesses, pubs, and hotels.