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17 Enjoyable Issues to Do in Matera, Italy, Mysterious Stone Metropolis


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Welcome to Matera, Italy — a metropolis carved totally from stone, considered the third-oldest settlement on this planet after Aleppo and Jericho. Matera and its historic cave homes often called sassi sit on a rocky canyon in Basilicata, Southern Italy.

Individuals lived in these caves in Matera, with neither electrical energy not operating water, as late because the Fifties. When this got here to mild, the town of Matera was known as “Italy’s Nice Disgrace.”

Matera escaped the radar of overseas vacationers for many years. Nonetheless, being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Web site in 1993 put the Metropolis of Caves on the map for tourism — and film scouts. Components of The Ardour of the Christ and Marvel Girl had been filmed on location in Matera. 

After which got here 2019 — after I lastly visited Matera as a part of a Puglia street journey. (Whereas Matera is technically a part of Basilicata, it’s simply barely over the border from Puglia and is among the hottest locations for vacationers in Puglia. I’m categorizing it in my Puglia content material for that motive.)

That 12 months, Matera was designated a European Capital of Tradition; shortly after, a automobile chase within the James Bond film No Time to Die was filmed within the stone metropolis. Customer numbers skyrocketed as vacationers “rocked” as much as {photograph} the vistas and sleep in luxurious cave motels.

Matera lived as much as my sky-high expectations — and I believe it is going to for you, too. There’s not a single place in Italy that appears like Matera. That’s precisely why it’s best to plan a go to. 

This publish was revealed in December 2023 and co-written by Adventurous Kate and Hannah Cooper.

Kate wears a red dress with an asymmetrical hemline and poses in front of the city of Matera: stone towers and homes built on top of a row of sassi (caves).
This Matera shot will all the time be one in every of my favourite pictures of me in Italy!

Finest Issues to Do in Matera, Italy

Stroll by way of the Outdated City

For all first-time Matera guests, I like to recommend getting the lay of the land with a wander across the historic middle. Piazza Vittorio Veneto is the pure start line to your first time in Matera, as this huge public sq. is residence to a number of sights on this listing, together with Palombaro Lungo and Belvedere Luigi Guerricchio detto dei Tre Archi. Look out for Salvador Dalí’s Area Elephant, too.

Matera is nice enjoyable to discover independently, though this historic stroll with a neighborhood information will deepen your understanding of Matera’s distinctive historical past. As a personal guided tour, some customization to the itinerary is feasible. Typically, the route focuses on the Sassi di Matera facet of the traditional city and gives a possibility to listen to extra concerning the tradition, historical past, and structure in addition to the “Disgrace of Italy.”

And should you’re a photographer, this sundown tour in Matera coincides with sunset when the town is saturated in gold and amber mild. This exercise is among the greatest issues to do in Matera in summer time.

In case you’re a photographer, it’s best to completely prioritize photographing the town at sundown (or dawn, should you’re an overachiever), as a result of there’s nowhere else on this planet like this.

A simple church facade carved into a big, flat piece of rock in Matera.
Chiesa di San Pietro Barisano, through Shutterstock.

Go to the Church of San Pietro Barisano

Matera incorporates round 150 non secular websites, lots of that are rupestrian church buildings: rock church buildings dug into the tufa stones of Matera. That’s an formidable quantity to tick off, so make a beeline for one of many large ones: Chiesa di San Pietro Barisano.

As the biggest of Matera’s rupestrian church buildings, this is among the key sights to find whereas roaming the previous city. Its foundations date again to the twelfth century, though the frescoes marking the doorway are from the sixteenth century. Step inside and also you’ll see a sequence of burial niches. 

It’s free to go to the Church of Saint Peter Barisano.

A small white tuk tuk driving through the stone streets of Matera.
Tuk Tuk in Matera Italy, through Shutterstock

Tour Matera by Tuk Tuk

Hurtling round Matera in a tuk tuk is an expertise you gained’t neglect anytime quickly! This non-public panoramic tuk-tuk tour of Matera lasts 45 minutes. The route focuses on such main landmarks because the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the sassi of Matera, and the rupestrian church buildings.

Observe that this isn’t an academic tour; it’s extra of a whirlwind photograph expedition. Common stops are factored in for images and selfies. Additionally, it’s best to know that the drivers will not be fluent in English.

Even so, it’s a cool method to see the previous city inside a restricted timeframe or on a baking sizzling summer time day. It’s additionally the most effective issues to do in Matera with youthful kids or anybody with who might wrestle being on their toes all day.

A tall, square-looking stone church in Matera, Italy.
There are practically 150 church buildings in Matera Italy!

See the Church buildings of Matera

Out of the opposite 149 church buildings in Matera, Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris is among the most spectacular rupestrian church buildings. Teetering over the ravine on the Monterrone hill, you possibly can respect it from a distance but it surely’s price visiting the crypt to see the frescoes. Admission is 4 EUR ($4.40 USD).

Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso sits just under in a curious juxtaposition with the rock church. It’s free to go to and you’ll see a superb view of each church buildings on the Belvedere the place By way of Muro meets By way of San Giacomo.

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria della Bruna e Sant’Eustachioc (or just, Matera Cathedral) instructions consideration with its Romanesque rose window. Chiesa del Purgatorio is uncommon because it was supposed as a spot of prayer for these in purgatory. These are each free to go to.

Whereas exploring Piazza San Francesco, it’s additionally price testing the Baroque Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi.

Inside a cave home in Matera: a tiny bed in the corner, lots of tools hanging on the walls, a stuffed donkey, and a mannequin of a woman spinning wool.
Life within the caves of Matera Italy was not straightforward.

Go to the Sassi of Matera

The Sassi di Matera are divided into two classes: the Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. Proof suggests these cave homes have been round because the Paleolithic period, which is what helped earn that coveted UNESCO World Heritage standing. 

It’s a good suggestion to go to Matera’s sassi as a part of a tour; there may be a lot data that provides you the historic context you want. This Sassi di Matera tour explores each cave districts and consists of visits to church buildings and homes. It hones in on the historical past of Matera and the pure caves with a good bit of strolling.

As a substitute, this official open bus tour spares your toes. It’s a tad shorter and commentary is through an audio information. Whereas not as thorough because the strolling tour, it’s nonetheless an insightful expertise and consists of admission to Casa Grotta Sassi di Matera.

Casa Noha is fascinating, because the minimalist exhibition is delivered by way of movies. These recordings don’t draw back from the difficulties confronted by inhabitants of the caves. I’d suggest following up with a go to to Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario. This can be a extra conventional expertise the place rooms are laid out with furnishings and homeware.

A long suspension bridge hanging between two sides of a canyon, people walking across it.
Tibet Suspension Bridge in Matera Italy, through Shutterstock

Cross the Tibetano Suspension Bridge

Stretch your legs by climbing to the Ponte Tibetano della Gravina, a suspension bridge strung throughout the Gravina di Matera. It’s not as excessive up as you assume, so even should you’re a bit afraid of heights, you may be okay with this bridge!. 

The Tibetan-style bridge is accessible through a brief however strenuous hike from By way of Madonna delle Virtù. Correct footwear is necessary and warning must be taken within the warmth or after rainfall. Matera will get sizzling by way of a lot of the 12 months, particularly summer time. Be sure you carry a bottle of water and put on solar safety.

The views are excellent right here, and it’s free to go to. 

The Palombaro Lungo, a gateway to an underground area in Matera with arched columns covered with overgrown vegetation.
Entrance of the Palombaro Lungo in Matera Italy, through Shutterstock.

Head underground to Palombaro Lungo

Matera is stuffed with surprises, and few locations are extra stunning than this whopping large underground cistern. Palombaro Lungo was carved into the caverns beneath Piazza Vittorio Veneto and as soon as held 5 million liters of water. Whereas it’s not the one tank lurking beneath the town, it’s the biggest by far.

This was one in every of my favourite locations to go to in Matera, and it offers perception to the engineering marvel that the town was previously and at the moment.

Coined the Cathedral of Water, Palombaro Lungo is an enormous labyrinth the place you possibly can quiet down on a sizzling summer time’s day. (For that motive, I like to recommend saving this for the most popular time of day — the early afternoon.) Regardless of the scale, it solely takes quarter-hour to wander by way of the exhibition. 

Admission is 3 EUR ($2.50 USD).

The belvedere (view of Matera) with layers of stone buildings and a church steeple, in black and white.
I needed to get the Belvedere of Matera Italy in black and white.

Take within the Belvedere

In a hilly city like Matera, each road nook is worthy of belvedere standing. Nonetheless, the Belvedere Luigi Guerricchio detto dei “Tre Archi” claims the highest spot for really spectacular views. 

These sweep proper throughout the Sassi di Matera and body the cathedral. Truthfully, there’s no unhealthy time to go to the belvedere. Sundown is the plain time, however the views are attractive always of day. In case you’re staying just a few days in Matera, I like to recommend visiting at completely different occasions of day to get pictures with completely different sorts of sunshine.

The Belvedere di Piazza Giovanni Pascoli is an alternative choice.

Discover Ipogeo MateraSum

Ipogeo MateraSum is one other underground attraction close to the cistern. Because it’s lesser identified, it’s typically skipped off a typical day journey to Matera and is among the greatest uncommon issues to do in Matera.

The museum illustrates the lifestyle within the cave advanced. It’s not fairly as spectacular as Palombaro Lungo or the cave homes, but it surely’s nonetheless price visiting in case you have greater than a day in Matera.

Admission is 7 EUR ($7.50 USD) and consists of an audio information. 

People walking down a stone street in Matera next to a church with a Dali exhibit.
Madonna della Virtù, through Lucamato on Shutterstock.

Take a look at the Rock Complicated a Madonna della Virtù

Constructed within the Center Ages, the Complesso Rupestre Madonna delle Virtù e San Nicola dei Greci is a monastery and church advanced. It teeters on the sting of the sassi and grants sneaky views of the town and ravine at sure factors.

The Salvador Dalí set up ushered within the crowds for a few years. Even with out the exhibition, the caves are adorned with fastidiously preserved frescoes to pore over. The simplicity of the church makes it all of the extra lovely and the compound has fallen quieter because the removing of the Dalí exhibit.

A path edged with purple and green shrubs leading through a rocky landscape near Matera.
Murgia Materana Park in Matera Italy, through Shutterstock

Hike in Murgia Materana Park

Located east of the Sassi di Matera, Murgia Materana Park is a large regional park on the other facet of the Matera Ravine. You mainly cross the suspension bridge and simply hold strolling. 

As soon as there, you’ll spot a cluster of viewpoints and rupestrian church buildings on the best level of this facet of the park. It’s a well-trodden path and there’s no must enlist a information except you need to enterprise deeper into the wilderness. 

Mountain climbing in Murgia Materana Park is among the greatest issues to do in Matera in case you have longer than a day. The payoff is epic views of the entire space surrounding the attractive metropolis. 

A bowl full of Italian panzanella (bread salad) and an aperol spritz, overlooking a view of Matera, with the stone houses and the church tower pointing upward.
Matera isn’t a nasty place for lunch with a view! By way of Shutterstock.

E-book a Restaurant with a View 

Spherical off a busy day of sightseeing with dinner spent feasting on the caves and church buildings of Matera. 

Regiacorte is among the greatest locations for upscale eating with views galore on the seasonal terrace. Go for the degustation menu and wine pairing should you’re trying to splurge. Parts are on the smaller facet however they’re full of taste with a presentation as scrumptious because the style. 

Pattern regional specialties like burrata and orecchiette pasta at Osteria al Casale – the pizza isn’t half unhealthy both. Widespread with native households, the restaurant sits on the sting of the Sassi di Matera with the choice to sit down contained in the cave or on the terrace. 

Pleasant and fuss-free, Vicolo Cieco is the right place to get pleasure from aperitivo on the patio in summer time, simply earlier than sundown. The vintage-style inside is cozy on a cooler day in Matera. 

A tall museum in Matera, with a clock perched on top of the building.
There are many museums in Matera Italy — through Cineberg on Shutterstock.

Be taught (and Play) at Native Museums

Pad out an extended itinerary (or a wet day) in Matera with one or two further museums. The Museum of Up to date Sculpture (MUSMA) is contained inside the Seventeenth-century Palazzo Pomarici. Emphasis is positioned on fashionable statues which strikes a kooky distinction with the palatial cave setting.

Laboratory Museum of Rural Life is a treasure trove of instruments utilized by craftspeople within the area. It’s deceptively giant – particularly contemplating the marginal entry charge of 4 EUR ($4.35 USD) – and considerably chaotic. Though, it’s the cheerfully chaotic nature that makes it a lot enjoyable to discover. 

The Matera Olive Oil Museum (MOOM) takes you right down to an underground olive oil mill. MOOM can solely be visited on a guided tour, which lasts about 20 minutes. You need to make your reservation not less than 3 days upfront. Get extra data, and the hyperlink to make your reservation, on the official web site.

Mission to Matera, anybody? Sparkme Area Academy is an immersive museum of astronomical proportions! Excellent for the complete household, this tour of the Museum of Area in Matera is the antidote to all of the historical past. 

A close up of a tiny model of the cave homes of Matera maybe 1000 years ago.
Sassi in Miniature may be a gimmick, but it surely’s a cute one.

See Sassi in Miniatura

If wandering round Matera’s sassi isn’t sufficient then you possibly can look at the caves in micro-form. Sassi in Miniatura is a memento retailer with a limestone reproduction mannequin of the Sassi di Matera. Simply pop in and you’ll go to it at no cost within the rear of the store.

Seeing as Sassi in Miniatura is firstly a present retailer, this is among the greatest locations to choose up mementos or trinkets.

The sculptures are available all completely different sizes with costs catering to backpackers and luxurious vacationers. 

A bowl of cavatelli pasta with tomatoes and basil.
Pasta is healthier when loved with a neighborhood household! By way of Shutterstock.

Dine with Locals

Being invited to dinner in an Italian house is nearly the most effective issues that may occur to you in Italy. This eating expertise is a method to just do that — and it takes place on the residence of a neighborhood cook dinner in Matera. 

Huddled across the kitchen desk, glass of wine in hand, you’ll observe a cooking demonstration and chow down on a four-course meal. The exercise is supported with cooking suggestions, tips, and knowledge — plus mountains of anecdotes. 

This distinctive cultural expertise in Matera is obtainable for lunch or dinner. 

A cave filled with paintings of saints in Matera Italy.
The Crypto of Authentic Sin in Matera Italy, through Gimas on Shutterstock

Enter the Crypt of Authentic Sin

The Crypt of Authentic Sin is a 15-minute drive southwest of Matera. This church is hewn into the pure caves and was a part of a Benedictine rock monastery when the Lombard tribes had been in Italy.

Richly embellished with frescoes from the Center Ages, the church is nicknamed the “Sistine Chapel of Rupestrian Artwork.” Wall work depict typical scenes of the Apostles, the Archangels, the Virgin Mary, and child Jesus. Nonetheless, it’s the illustration of Adam and Eve within the Backyard of Eden that hogs the limelight.

Public transport doesn’t go right here so that you’ll must drive or be part of a tour from Matera. Preserve your eyes peeled for indicators saying “Cripta del Peccato Originale” and keep in mind to make a reservation should you go to independently.  

A small Italian street with arched lights in a lace-like pattern.
The Puglia city of Altamura is nicely price a fast cease.

Go to Altamura 

Twenty minutes north of Matera, Altamura is a Pugliese city with lovely structure and a legacy for bread-making. In case you’re doing a day journey from a city on the coast to Matera — or shifting on to your subsequent location — that is the right cease after leaving.

On the very least, cease briefly at Antico Forno Santa Caterina to choose up some focaccia. They’ve the oldest oven on the town, courting again to medieval occasions. Their focaccia is stupendously good — in all probability the very best I’ve had in my life (sorry, Liguria) — and comes topped with an assortment of regional meats, cheeses, or veggies. 

In case you’d like, carry your slice to Piazza Duomo and admire the carved facade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The church blends Romanesque and Gothic components and is free to enter. When you’ve got time, wander across the previous city and medieval gates. 

A ramp leading around a stone church topped with purple flowers in Matera.
Matera Italy is a well-liked day journey, however just a few days could be good, too.

How A lot Time to Spend in Matera, Italy

Matera is arguably the preferred day journey vacation spot in and round Puglia — and certainly, sooner or later in Matera is sufficient to see the principle sights and the sassi. There are many choices to go about your day journey both independently or with a tour.

That mentioned, you possibly can completely get pleasure from your self and discover Matera in larger depth should you spend just a few days right here. And should you’re ready to take action, I’d suggest staying in a cave lodge. They’ve loads at completely different worth factors, which I’m going into beneath.

In case you’re a photographer, it’s important to have just a few days in Matera to make the most of a number of sunsets and provides your self a buffer in case of unhealthy climate. (However in fact, should you’re a photographer, you already know that.)

Layers upon layers of square stone buildings in the city of Matera.
Observe that this isn’t a simple place to drive.

Learn how to Get to Matera, Italy

Bari Worldwide Airport (BRI), Puglia’s main airport, is the closest airport to Matera. It’s round an hour’s drive in a rental automobile or non-public taxi. Direct buses from Bari Airport to Matera take 1.5 hours and are straightforward to rearrange on the airport.

If you wish to have somebody ready for you on the airport, you possibly can pre-book a shared switch to Matera Centrale or a non-public switch to your lodge.

In case you’d wish to ebook a day journey to Matera from one other city, there are many group excursions, like today journey to Matera from Bari.

Some vacationers do a southern Italy street journey that begins in Naples and ends in Bari. If that’s your plan, Matera makes a superb halfway level and is 2 hours and 45 minutes from Naples. I’d suggest staying two nights in a cave lodge to present you a full day to discover Matera (to not point out two completely different sunsets).

There are trains and buses to Matera, however nothing high-speed. Take into account that on this a part of southern Italy, if it’s not a high-speed practice, will probably be fairly sluggish.

A luxury hotel room inside a cave, with a four-poster bed and couch, all surrounded by sand-colored stone walls.
In case you’re staying in a single day in Matera, make it a cave lodge! By way of Shutterstock.

The place to Keep in Matera, Italy

In case you plan to in a single day on this historic stone metropolis, a cave lodge is a MUST! Take into account that a lot of Matera is closed to automobile visitors, and you could have to hold your baggage to your lodge from the closest drop-off.

I picked out three completely different cave motels in Matera at three completely different worth ranges. Right here they’re:

Luxurious: Rooms on the Corte San Pietro are carved straight into the stone of an previous cave within the UNESCO World Heritage Web site. The decor is saved easy with minimal gildings moreover sunken whirlpool tubs within the non-public lavatory. Breakfast is served within the courtyard in summer time.  

Midrange: Comprising 4 models, Endea Suite Rooms is among the boutique motels in Matera for intimacy. The most effective suite has a grotto spa tub for relieving the muscle tissues after a day of hills and climbing. This a part of Sasso Barisano is quiet but moments from the principle church buildings. 

Funds: Carry the complete household to Hydria Rooms the place sizable rooms function cave components and conventional supplies. {Couples} can go for a room with a balcony or splash out on the spa suite. All of the Sassi sights are inside strollable distance of this contemporary lodge. 

Another angle of stone square buildings piled on top of each other in Matera, Italy.

Finest Time to Go to Matera, Italy

In case you can select anytime to go to Matera — or southern Italy as a complete — I’m a giant fan of shoulder season, spring and fall. These months are excellent for exploring the sights with out struggling by way of the searing warmth.

July and August are extraordinarily busy and I like to recommend avoiding Italy presently if attainable. In case you’re trying to get pleasure from summer time climate in Puglia and southern Italy, I like to recommend planning your journey for early June or late September.

Winter is an fascinating time to go to Matera. It will probably drop into the 30s on the coldest days which implies bundling up in heat clothes however the depleted streets are a serious benefit. Whereas Matera is a year-round metropolis, the previous city of Matera just isn’t — and remember that many motels and eating places will likely be closed within the winter.

A brilliant sunset in Matera Italy, with pink and blue clouds above and each building in the layered stone city lit up with glowing lamps.
In case you’re a photographer, Matera is price it for pictures like this. By way of Shutterstock.

Is Matera price it?

I believe that Matera is an absolute should for any Italy-phile. Not only for its magnificence and distinctive attributes — however due to the historical past. It’s completely stunning that folks had been residing within the caves of Matera for thus lengthy, together with people who find themselves nonetheless alive at the moment. It’s essential to acknowledge the more durable elements of life in Italy together with the nicer elements.

Regardless of whether or not you go to for a day or just a few days, Matera is a completely bewitching vacation spot. I’m positive you’ll get a few of your favourite pictures of Italy right here.

I hope you’ve essentially the most great time in Matera! I do know it’s cliche to maintain saying it, however there’s actually nowhere else in Italy prefer it.

Extra on Puglia, Italy:

Planning a Journey to Italy:

Cool Locations in Southern Italy:

Cool Locations in Northern Italy:

Have you ever been to Matera, Italy? Any recommendations? Share away!