The ancient stone dwellings and water systems in the Sassi district of Matera, Italy, are renowned as a model for sustainable living and have been recognized as a World Heritage site by Unesco.
The historic stone homes and water systems in Matera, southern Italy, which were once believed an embarrassment to the country, are now renowned as examples of sustainable living.The Sassi district, evacuated in the 1950s due to poor living conditions, had a sophisticated subterranean system of rainwater collection and canalization. The largely self-sufficient community grew its own produce in gardens and recycled waste, wastewater, and manure. Matera’s downward trajectory began with the Industrial Revolution when the caves, once a source of wealth, became useless. With Italy’s unification, the agricultural fields previously owned by the Catholic Church were confiscated, forcing the tenant farmers to move to the Sassi district, leading to overpopulation, declining hygiene, and illness. Despite this, Matera is now a model of ingenuity and resilience and a showcase of sustainable living.