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The Civita

The origin of the name of this neighborhood is clearly the Latin civitas, a city. This is in fact considered the oldest part of the town. Enclosed within the walls until the sixteenth century, the Civita for its morphological characteristics can be considered a natural fortress, clinging to a pyramid-shaped plateau surrounded by the ravine of the Gravina and other overhangs and steep cliffs.

The ravine of Gravina and the walls have made the site impregnable for centuries during the siege periods. He represented the city, with all its administrative and religious functions. It is no coincidence that the Romanesque Cathedral was built right on its acropolis, to represent the importance of the site compared to the Rioni Sassi, considered at the time as small farmhouses outside the walls and used as burial sites. Its highest part, where the Rione Castelvecchio stands, had numerous medieval fortifications, and today there are some of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

To characterize the Civita there is not only the imposing Cathedral, but also the remains of the numerous towers that surrounded it, such as the Metellana, on the side of the Sasso Barisano, and the Torre Quadra and Torre Capone on the Caveoso side. Unfortunately, if we exclude Piazza Duomo and the buildings that overlook it, including Palazzo Gattini, today a splendid 5-star hotel, and the Palazzo della curia, and some houses along Via Pennino, most of the Civita is in a state of abandonment, especially the slope overlooking the Gravina, from Via S. Nicola del Sole to Via Pennino.

The numerous finds found at the Civita by the doctor-archaeologist Domenico Ridola in the tomb of the Cathedral, attest to the presence in Matera of a substantial human settlement as early as the 9th century BC. with characteristics and culture typical of the numerous centers of the populations of ancient Lucania, confederate among themselves. The presence of the Greek colonies on the nearby coast of Metaponto has slowly dissolved this clear ethnic and cultural imprint, while leaving the city an autonomous life, although under the incessant influence and impulse of the Magna Graecia civilization.

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*Photo by Marco De Lucia