Stunning Photos of Matera’s Cave Dwellings and Historic Architecture

Matera by Federico Scarchilli

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.'”

Italian photographer Federico Scarchilli captures the beauty of Matera's ancient architecture in a new series of photos.

Photo of Matera by Federico Scarchili Photo of Matera by Federico Scarchili Photo of Matera by Federico Scarchili Matera by Federico Scarchilli Photo of Matera by Federico Scarchili Matera Photo by Federico Scarchili

Sassi, Matera's historic district, has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times and is filled with cave dwellings and cisterns.

Matera Photo by Federico Scarchili Matera Photo by Federico Scarchili Matera Photo by Federico Scarchili Matera Photo by Federico Scarchili Matera by Federico Scarchilli Matera by Federico Scarchilli Matera by Federico Scarchilli

The Southern Italian city has been named the 2019 European Capital of Culture.

Matera Photo by Federico Scarchili

Federico Scarchilli: Website | Facebook | Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Federico Scarchilli.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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