It doesn't happen often (after the year we've had we're kind of spoilt now), but our first glimpse of the ancient sassi of Matera blew us away.
Surrounded by dramatic scenery, the sassi are crumbling grottoes carved out of a rocky ravine. Walking around the labyrinth of alleyways and stone stairways feels like being on a film set or, as someone commented on my Instagram photo, in a fairytale. It just feels unreal.
Until the 1950s, people lived in these cave dwellings in dismal poverty, with frequent malarial outbreaks and a 50% infant mortality rate. These days many of the caves have been restored and the area is a UNESCO world heritage site, and occasionally even a film set (The Passion of the Christ was filmed here).
Matera is one of the oldest towns in the world and one of the most unique and interesting places we've visited.
If you're headed to Matera, check out nearby Puglia for more pretty Italian towns.