Italy's Matera is a trip back in time

With its "Sassi" limestone cave dwellings dug into the hillside Matera is one of the Italian cities that time forgot. [10 photos total]

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A general view of Matera's Sassi limestone cave dwellings in southern Italy April 30, 2015. With its "Sassi" limestone cave dwellings dug into the hillside and cascading in gravity-defying fashion down a steep slope towards the Gravina river, Matera is one of the Italian cities that time forgot. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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Tourists walk on a street in Matera's Sassi, southern Italy April 30, 2015. On the square, the "salumeria" il Buongustaio Matera stocks local delicacies while the Kappador restaurant has decent food, good service and a terrace with a spectacular view of the Sassi and the ravine. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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A general view of Matera's Sassi limestone cave dwellings in southern Italy April 30, 2015. Bypassed by development in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and described by Carlo Levi as one of the most backward places in Italy in his famous 1945 book "Christ Stopped at Eboli", Matera remained so primitive until recent decades that it made the perfect stand-in for ancient Jerusalem. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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Chef Gigi Sanrocco prepares a pasta dish named "Fettucine alla Mel Gibson" in his restaurant in Matera, southern Italy April 30, 2015. Pier Paolo Pasolini filmed his groundbreaking "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" of 1964, depicting Jesus as a proto-communist, in Matera. Mel Gibson used it for his "The Passion of the Christ" showing Jesus's torture on the way to Calvary. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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Chef Gigi Sanrocco and actor Mel Gibson are seen in a picture posted on a blackboard at a restaurant in Matera, southern Italy April 30, 2015. The Australian-born actor is celebrated with the dish called ""Fettucine alla Mel Gibson" in his honor at the popular Trattoria Lucana on Matera's main drag, the Via Lucana. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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A general view of Matera's Sassi limestone cave dwellings in southern Italy April 30, 2015. Matera is really two places in one -- a thriving, modern city with restaurants, hotels, shops, museums, churches and the usual amenities tucked higher up the plateau from the ancient Sassi caves, which have been inhabited since prehistoric times -- by some accounts for 9,000 years. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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A general view of Matera's Sassi limestone cave dwellings in southern Italy April 30, 2015. The fact that until the fascist leader Mussolini's rise to power in the 1930s the caves didn't have electricity but were teeming with people who kept their livestock inside was what so shocked Levi. Post-war social planners relocated the inhabitants and many and perhaps most of the Sassi were left vacant. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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A general view of Matera's Sassi limestone cave dwellings in southern Italy April 30, 2015. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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A man stands at a viewpoint from where he can see Matera's Sassi, southern Italy April 29, 2015. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #
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A general view of Matera's Sassi limestone cave dwellings in southern Italy April 30, 2015. UNESCO has named it a European cultural capital for 2019, which should bring many more visitors to one of Italy's poorest areas. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile) #

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