Italian photographer Federico Scarchilli turns his lens toward Matera, showing the spectacularly unique architecture of this ancient Southern Italian town. Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world known for its cave dwellings—which in recent years have been transformed into luxurious cave hotels.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named the 2019 European Capital of Culture, Matera’s history has been rocky. The historical center, Sassi, was an area of poverty and in post-WWII Italy, the population declined due to rampant disease in the caverns. In fact, from the 1950s onwards, people were forced to vacate Sassi in favor of more modern dwellings in newer areas of the city. But slowly, this trend is reversing.
From cave hotels to other initiatives to stimulate tourism, Matera continues to revamp its image. And Scarchilli’s washed out photographs, bathed in white, shine a light on the magnificent architecture, art, and engineering present in the city. A true marvel of the prehistoric world, Matera is a resilient city that continues to move through hardship to present the beauty of its environment to the world.
“Matera is city, community, cohesion, it is willpower. Matera must be an example because is the exact symbol of life: the extreme initial difficulties, the arrival at the lowest point, the nickname ‘City of Shame,’ the desire to get up, to redeem itself,” writes Scarchilli, “the awareness of having strength, of rebelling and innovating; the climb up to touch the highest point with a new name, ‘City of European Culture.'”