Matera – what a city! Anyone who sees the rock city of Matera for the first time cannot help but be impressed.
Like in a hidden object picture, the sand-colored house facades are lined up next to and on top of each other. The scenery leaves you speechless, reminiscent of a stage set or a film set. Everything tone in tone, because it is the almost “colorless” stone that Matera is so famous for and that makes such a lasting impression on your memory.
Incredible but true: Ancient cave dwellings are hidden behind the facades. Once upon a time (and until not too long ago) people lived here under the poorest of conditions in tiny cave dwellings.
In this blog article we will introduce you to the spectacular rock city of Matera. We will show you the most beautiful sights and give you our personal tips for your trip.
1. Matera in Italy: First travel tips at a glance Worth knowing & exciting facts about Matera Materas old town consists of cave dwellings, the so-called “Sassi”, the were dug into the tuff and later covered with facades. It is therefore not surprising that “Sassi ‘ translated means ‘stones’. And when you see Matera for the first time, a sea of stones will literally open up to you. Don’t be confused: the two old town quarters are also called “Sassi”. Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. Matera is ancient. The area was probably inhabited since the Neolithic Age. Matera is therefore one of the oldest cities in the world.Until the 50s people in Matera lived under poorest conditions – without running water, without sewage system , without electricity and with an infant mortality rate of just under 50 percent. The Sassi were then cleared. First in the 80s the Italian government recognized the cultural value of the old town of Matera. With the help of grants, the caves were gradually renovated. Meanwhile Matera is UNESCO World Heritage Site and was European Capital of Culture 1200. How many days should I plan for Matera? Matera may only be visited by some as a day trip, but we strongly recommend that you stay the night. On the one hand the mood in the evening and morning hours is very special, on the other hand there is quite a lot to see.
In our opinion, one night is the absolute minimum for a stay in Matera. Two nights are much better and with three nights you might even be able to explore some of the surrounding countryside that is well worth seeing.
2. Sights in Matera: Our tips Old town of Matera = total work of art Let’s start with the most important sight of Matera, which stands as a big bracket above everything, so to speak: The old town. Before we introduce you to individual buildings in Matera in more detail, we would like to give you some general information about the old town.
Matera’s old town is a widely branched labyrinth of stairs (many stairs!), narrow streets and squares. The old town consists of two districts: Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. The historic old town of Matera is therefore also called Sassi di Matera.
Don’t even try to Orientation to keep. It is almost impossible to really find your way around Matera. Google Maps was our best helper and yes, it can happen that you walk stairs for nothing because you suddenly end up in a dead end.
A little tip: Marked paths (“itinerario”) run through Matera. They guide you along the main routes to the most important sights. So if you don’t want to get completely lost in the maze of alleys, you can stick to these trail markers.
Rock churches in Matera The impressive rock churches (“Chiese rupestri”) are among the most famous sights in the historic old town of Matera. As the name already suggests, these are carved churches.
The unique cave architecture is not at all reminiscent of a church interior as one is otherwise used to it. Therefore, in our opinion, a visit to at least one of Matera’s rock churches is a must. The three most famous rock churches are:
San Pietro Barisano Santa Lucia alle MalveSanta Maria de Idris In addition to the unique flair, the frescoes inside the churches are particularly noteworthy. If you visit the rock churches without a guide, be sure to get the info folder that is available in each of the churches (in several languages). That way you’ll get at least a few historical details.
Information on visiting the Rock churches of Matera at a glance Entry: 1 church 4 euros, combination ticket 3 churches 8 euros
Taking photos: Is not allowed inside – not even without a flash.
Cathedral of Matera At the highest point of the city, between the two districts of Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, the gigantic Cathedral of Matera towers enthroned.
The mighty cathedral dates from the 13. Century and was built in the Apulian-Romanesque style. The imposing building is not only impressive from the outside, we can also recommend a look inside. For one euro you can visit the cathedral.
By the way, the view of Matera from the square in front of the cathedral, the Piazza Duomo, is particularly worth seeing. From up here, Matera looks like a film set.
Palombaro Lungo Pretty impressive: below Matera there was there were once five public cisterns (as well as numerous other private ones) for the water supply of the city. You can visit the largest of them, Palombaro Lungo.
From the Piazza Vittorio Veneto stairs lead you down into the giant cave system. The cistern dates from 13. Century. As everywhere in Matera, these caves were also created artificially.
A narrow path leads you over the water through the cistern and back again. You quickly saw everything and would like to linger longer because the dimensions are really impressive.
Information about visiting the Palombaro Lungo at a glance Entry: 3 Euro
Opening hours and further information: Palombaro Lungo (official website)
Casa Grotta nei Sassi di Matera You want an insight into life in the cave dwellings of yesteryear receive? In Matera there are several accessible apartments that have been converted into museums. We stayed in one of the most famous of these rock dwellings called Casa Grotta nei Sassi di Matera.
Don’t expect a classic, spacious museum here – quite the opposite. Remember: the cave dwellings of yesteryear were small and dark. The whole family, including cattle, lived in a few square meters. Inconceivably!
You can play an audio guide on your smartphone. We personally found the additional background information quite exciting.
Overview of information on visiting Casa Grotta Admission: 5 Euro
Our tip: It can get pretty tight in there. If you don’t want to step on each other’s toes, you should probably come early or late.
Opening times and further information: Casa Grotta (official website)
3. The most beautiful vantage points in Matera If you ask us: The most spectacular of Matera is simply the breathtaking view of the city. It doesn’t matter from which perspective: The sea of stone houses is just such an impressive photo motif. Without words!
Don’t worry: If you’re going on a journey of discovery If you go through Matera, you will probably pass most of the vantage points anyway. We would like to briefly introduce you to our view favorites in this chapter.
Convento Sant’Agostino We like to call it “signature look”. Or postcard motif. Either way: You can enjoy one of the most famous views of Matera from the forecourt of the Convento Sant’Agostino. From a distance you have a really great panorama here.
Our tip: The Crialoss Café is only a few minutes from here. From its terrace you can enjoy a very similar view, but you can celebrate it even better with a drink.
Belvedere Luigi Guerricchio From this small, Hidden viewing terrace you also have a great view of Matera. The viewpoint is located directly on the spacious Piazza Vittorio Veneto, is free and accessible 24 hours a day.
Belvedere of Piazza Giovanni Pascoli In the south of the old town is this small square, from which you can also enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of Matera. Went here in the evening just after the lights came on in town – very atmospheric!
Belvedere Murgia Timone Last but not least: The Belvedere Murgia Timone. It’s a bit out of line because it’s not in the old town, but on the other side of the gorge. Therefore you can see Matera from a distance.
And something else is different: the walking time. This vantage point can be reached after a 40-minute hike. First of all, it goes directly from the old town of Matera downhill into the gorge to the Ponte Tibetano della Gravina. After crossing this suspension bridge you then hike on the other side in serpentines up to the vantage point.
We can warmly recommend this hike to anyone who is fit and mobile. The entire scenery in the gorge and the view from the vantage point are extremely worth seeing.
A little tip: If you don’t want to cover that many meters in altitude, you can alternatively also approach by car from the other side. From the parking lot you then have to walk about 1.5 kilometers (albeit flat). We personally find the hike down into the valley very worthwhile and would (provided the hiking trail is open!) choose it again and again.
4 . Food & Drink: Tips for cafes and restaurants The bad news first : The culinary offer in the old town of Matera is relatively touristic. Or in other words: In many restaurants, tourists are more likely to sit at the next table than locals. But it doesn’t matter, we still ate very well. Here our favourites:
Osteria al Casale: Very nice osteria built into a rock with rather minimalist decor. If the weather is nice, you can also sit outside at one of the tables in front of the restaurant. Classic Italian cuisine is served (antipasti, pasta, pizza, lots of meat and fish). Good value for money and very nice service. Definitely recommended.
La Lopa: Very popular, relatively hip restaurant in the old town of Matera. The menu features Italian classics – some with a modern twist. Be sure to reserve!
Crialoss: “The place to be” for a drink with a view. From the terrace of this café you can enjoy a gigantic view over Matera. A visit is recommended, especially in the evening hours, when the setting sun bathes Matera in a beautiful light.
I Vizi degli Angeli: One of the best ice cream parlors in town. There are both classics and more unusual varieties.
Area 8: A pretty cool retro style bar. If you want to drink a cocktail in the evening, this is the place to be. If you come hungry: There is also something to eat, including tapas and burgers.
Osteria al Casale 5. Our accommodation tip for Matera Of course, the most traditional place to stay is Matera , if you decide to stay right in the historic old town (Sassi di Matera). Numerous stylishly renovated cave dwellings are particularly popular.
But be careful: In these cave rooms there is often a problem of moisture and little (or no) daylight. We have therefore decided on something “in between” and booked a room (“Deluxe Room”) in the Ai Maestri Rooms & Cafe – the very best decision!
The cave flair was combined with modern, stylish elements in a wonderful way. The entire facility (bed, duvet cover, TV, etc.) is extremely high quality, the bathroom is an absolute highlight.
Two small disadvantages: Ours Room was on the ground floor next to the breakfast room. If someone is talking very loudly in the morning, you may hear something. And: Considering the price, we found the breakfast to be in need of improvement – also in comparison to the other accommodations of our Apulia trip.
Apart from that, we can only highly recommend the accommodation . You feel very welcome and comfortable, which is also due to the extremely helpful owners. We would come back in a heartbeat.
You can book accommodation here: Ai Maestri Rooms & Cafe
6. Map: All sights and tips at a glance To see the Orientation on site, we have marked all the sights and our tips for Matera on this map. A little tip: If you click on the rectangle at the top right, you can save the map in the Google Maps app on your smartphone.
7. More travel tips: How to get there, parking, safety etc. Location: Where is Matera? Matera is located in Southern Italy, more precisely in the region Basilicata. It is advisable to visit Matera as part of a Puglia road trip. Strictly speaking, Matera is outside of Apulia, but the short detour is definitely worthwhile.
Arrival: How do I get to Matera? The nearest major airport is in Bari. There are direct connections from many cities in German-speaking countries (including Vienna, Frankfurt, Berlin and many more).
If you are planning a road trip, then it is best to rent one directly at Bari Airport Rental car. The journey time from the airport to Matera is just under an hour. We like to book our rental car through Sunny Cars.
If you are “only” traveling to Matera, then we would personally tend to book a private transfer from the airport to Matera (or with to travel by train/bus). In Matera itself, a car won’t do you any good – more on that in a moment.
Parking: Where can I park in Matera? Very important first tip: The historic old town of Matera is a traffic restricted zone. This means that only selected vehicles are allowed to enter (and only along a few streets, especially since most of the alleys are simply impassable).
It is therefore necessary that you park your car outside the no-driving zone. The closer the parking garages are to the old town, the more expensive they are usually. In theory, you can walk to your accommodation from some car parks (if you only have a small amount of luggage). But be careful: it often goes up and downhill. We would only choose this variant if your accommodation is really around the corner.
We chose the much more comfortable Valet Parking from “TA&Co autoparcheggio” (booked through our accommodation). This parking garage is located outside of Matera. We were taken straight to our accommodation from the parking garage. The price is 35 Euro per day – including shuttle to the hotel and back.
Security: Is Matera safe ? Once you google it, you will quickly find countless horror stories about car thefts and car break-ins in southern Italy. And of course you shouldn’t sugarcoat it: That’s really a problem here in the south of Italy.
There’s a reason why you get a Folder on safety tips is handed out. But, to give the all-clear here: Nothing at all happened to us in this direction. never!
We can give the following tips to travel as safely as possible through southern Italy and thus Matera:
Carry Valuables such as mobile phone, money etc. always well protected, not visible. Means, for example: The back trouser pocket is taboo. Valuables should never (!) be left in the car. No, not even hidden in the glove compartment. If your hotel room has a Safe, you can also store valuables in it.We personally didn’t stop over with luggage in the trunk (e.g. to look at a city for a few hours.) We always checked in first and then drove on with an empty car. Speaking of driving: We can only advise you to drive as defensively as possible. The driving style of the Italians is sometimes hair-raising. 39047Transparency: Affiliate Links
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Have you already visited the impressive city of Matera? How did you like it? Do you have any other tips you would like to share with us? We look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments.