Annual Meeting and "The Sassi of Matera – Moving Beauty, Tragic History, and Recent Rebirth" – JoAnn Pierson
Time & Location
About the Event
The region that is now Matera was home to cave-dwelling humans as long as 9,000 years ago and is believed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. “Sassi” means stones and refers to dwellings cut from rock. In the 1950s, as many as 16,000 people were still living in caves without running water or electricity. The area was considered “the shame of Italy” because of extreme poverty and widespread malaria, cholera, and typhoid. In 1945, Carlo Levi – a doctor, artist, author, and political activist – published his memoir Christ Stopped at Eboli about his year of exile near Matera under the Fascists. He singled out the Sassi for its “tragic beauty,” filth, and disease. The book caused an uproar in postwar Italy, and the government instituted a plan to forcibly relocate most of the population to new public housing. The Sassi was abandoned and left uninhabitable and dangerous until the late 1980s when some young adventurers organized volunteers to clean up the area. UNESCO listed the Sassi as a World Heritage Site in 1993, and Matera was named one of 2019 European Capitals of Culture. Join JoAnn as she takes us on a guided tour of one of her favorite cities in southern Italy.