It is widely believed that the sassi were the homes of some of the very first humans that settled in Italy and that the homes have been there since the Paleolithic Era. People were still living in the sassi up until the 1950's when the Italian government made them leave due to unsanitary living conditions. Now, a lot of these homes have been restored and have been transformed into hotels like this one, pubs, and more modern, livable homes.
When I visited Matera, I arrived in the middle of the day and was surprised to find that I didn't see any other tourists. Maybe it's because I went in the middle of winter or because it was during their siesta time, but this destination just seemed so unique that I couldn't believe I didn't run into other travelers. The sassi may look familiar to you because the movie The Passion of the Christ was filmed here.
While in Matera, I stopped by Chiesa del Purgatoria Nuovo, a church that was built in the late 1700's. I couldn't go inside, but what struck me about the facade were the blatant symbols of death. Apparently, this was a positive thing because dying meant that one was able to start over fresh.