The Sassi di Matera became cultural heritage of UNESCO in 1993. It was the first site under protection of UNESCO in southern Italy. It represents an extraordinary urban ecosystem able to immortalize the prehistoric lifetime in the caves. The Sassi di Matera embodies a perfect example of accurate usage of resources that nature offers throughout the years: water, ground, energy.
The Sassi di Matera represents the old town center of Matera. The Sasso Caveoso, the Sasso Barisano and the Rione Civita, they all form a complex urban unit.
The Uomo di Altamura is a skeleton of Homo neanderthalensis discovered on October 1993 in Lamalunga’s cave, nearby Altamura. It was dated between 128.000 and 187.000 years ago, it is the most ancient evidence of the Homo neanderthalensis in the world. The whole pre-existent knowledge about European prehistoric men derived from multiple evidences but disjointed; for example an entire cranium in Germany, several cranial fragments in Greece, Italy, Spain and France, forcing the anthropologists to make an effort to identify the features and the compatibility of missing parts.
The quarry of Dinosaurs of Altamura is an extended area of about twelve thousands squared metres, where several dinosaurs’ traces were discovered in 1999. Nowadays it is the richest and most important in Europe and perhaps in the entire world, thanks to the high biodiversity that featured the individuals that lived during that period. Twenty thousands dinosaurs’ traces have emerged after several works in the cave.. The traces are from the superior Cretacico, between 70 million to 80 million years ago, when the climate in Puglia was tropical, and witness the presence of more than two hundred animals, members of at least five different groups of dinosaurs, herbivores and carnivores.
The basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is the duomo of Altamura and cathedral of the diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle fonti. The façade of the cathedral is characterized by two tall campaniles with three orders (the first is romanesque) that join together. From the little loggia you can see a statue of Vergine Immacolata, while the statues of the saints Peter and Paul are located on the sides, on the tympanium. Underneath the little loggia there is the rose window of the 12th century, with a sunburst of fifteen rays and the low relief representing The Agnus Dei at the center. Next to the rose window there are three emblems: The central one belonged to the emperor Charles V, from the house of the Habsburg. The other two emblems belonged to Pietro da Toledo and the archpriest Salazar, thanks to whom we can now admire the amazing works of enlargement during the 16th century.
The Claustri are typical little squares located on the streets in the old town center of Altamura. They are called “Gnostr” in the local dialect and they are unique for the folkloristic architecture. There are about 80 Claustri and they represent the union of familiar or ethnic communities (Latins, Africans and jews). Claustri’s structure assume both a social and a defensive function: the claustro, with only one entry, represented a trap for enemies that if they entered they would have been stoned. There are two types of claustri: The first one is the Greek style with a circular shape and the presence of either a tree or a shaft at the center: The Arabian style is long and narrow with a little closed street and at the bottom a shaft for rain water.
The Pulo of Altamura is the biggest karstic valley in Alta Murgia. It has an elevation of about 477 metres and it is 6 kilometres far from Altamura. The karstic depression appears as a deep and wide crater of elliptical shape at the top, dug in calcareous rock of Murgia going southeast from Bari. Its major axis is 550m long and its major depth reaches 92m. Despite the appearance, its origin is not volcanic, but karstic, linked to its calcareous nature and so it is to the chemical composition of the rocks that form the Murge Pugliesi.
The national park of Alta Murgia, shortened PnAM, established in 2004, It is a protected natural area situated in Puglia, in the districts of Bari and Barletta-Andria-Trani. Among the main park’s attractions Castel del Monte deserves to be mentioned, being one of the most famous castles of the whole southern part of Italy. Moreover The Foresta Mercadante has a particular naturalistic interest situated in the territory of Cassano delle Murgie, whose extension is about 1800 hectares, The Pulo of Altamura, representing the biggest karstic depression in the territory as well as the valley of dinosaurs, located around Altamura too. Other landmarks are the Gravine, typical karstic morphologies of Murgia and the Bosco Difesa Grande in the territory of Gravina in Puglia, a huge forest of more than 3000 hectares representing one of the most important woodland in Puglia. The Jazzi are so particular, rocky structures used during periods of transhumance especially in Andria, Ruvo, Minervino and Spinazzola.
The ancient Gravina was situated on the hill of Botromagno, on the other bank of the river Gravina. The settlement was dwelled from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age and now it represents a proper touristic and archaeological park (Parco archeologico di Botromagno), composed by the ruins of the old peucetian city.
The rediscovered materials in the archaeological site are now exposed in the Museo della Fondazione Pomarici Santomasi and in the Museo civico (Gravina in Puglia).