The Sassi di Matera (meaning "stones of Matera") are prehistoric cave dwellings in the Italian city of Matera, Basilicata. Situated in the old town, they are composed of the Sasso Caveoso and the later Sasso Barisano.
Matera has gained international fame for its "Sassi". 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 calcarenitic rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Puglia, and is locally called "tufo" though it should not be confused with the volcanic tuff nor with tufa. 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".
One of the benefits of the ancient city, is that there is a great similarity in the look of the Sassi with that of ancient sites in and around Jerusalem. This has caught the eye of film directors and movie studios. Principally due to this reason the Sassi were the set of many films, as for example "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" (Pasolini, 1964), "King David" (Bruce Beresford, 1985), "The Passion of the Christ" (Gibson, 2004) and "The Nativity Story" (Hardwicke, 2006).
Geography: The "Sassi" grew in the area of Murgia Plateau, extended between Apulia and Basilicata