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Italy. Basilicata Region. Sunset on Matera. Known as la Città Sotterranea ("the Underground City"), Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, having been inhabited since the 10th millennium BC. Its historical centre "Sassi", along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, was awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO since 1993. The Sassi di Matera are two districts (Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano), well-known for their ancient cave dwellings.The Sassi originate from a prehistoric troglodyte settlement and are suspected to be among the first human settlements in Italy. There is evidence that people were living here as early as the year 7000 BC.The Sassi are houses dug into the calcarenite rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata, locally called "tufo" although it is not volcanic tuff or tufa. The streets in some parts of the Sassi often run on top of other houses. The ancient town grew up on one slope of the ravine created by a river that is now a small stream. The ravine is known locally as "la Gravina". In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since many of these houses were, and in some cases still are, uninhabitable. The current local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented, and it has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi with the aid of the European Union, the government, UNESCO. Today there are many thriving businesses, pubs, restaurants and hotels. A tour guide or a tourist guide is a person who provides assistance, information on cultural, historical and contemporary heritage to people on organized tours and individual clients at Matera historical sites. On 17th October 2014, Matera was declared Italian host of European Capital of Culture for 2019. Basilicata is a region in Southern Italy. 8.12.18  © 2018 Didier Ruef