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A Short Guide to Matera

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IT, Basilicate, Matera
Matera is both the name of a province and unusual town in Basilicata. Although the locals of the city were living in caves that were abandoned more than 60 years ago, Matera is thriving again thanks to restorations. New families and visitors now have the unique opportunity of staying in these original caves in refurbished modern day comfort

The caves are accessible all year round. During summer, June to September, it can get rather hot so it is not ideal if you are planning on many walking tours.

Fun Facts about Matera

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) lists Matera twice as a World Heritage Site.
Adeptly referred to as the City of Stones, the Sassi of later periods are enclaves carved into a mountain that looks like stacked stone buildings from the outside.

Many of the scenic shots from “The Passion of the Christ” were filmed in Matera and the rest at Cinecittà Studios. During filming in Matera of “The Passion of the Christ”, the lead actor was struck by lightning. So was the assistant director – twice! “Christ Stopped by Eboli” by Carlo Levi is what brought attention to the squalid conditions of the cave dwellers which resulted in the mass evacuation in the 1950s.

11. Palombaro Lungo

Roughly translated, Palombaro Lungo means deep diver (the latter is derived from Latin origin). Surprisingly, this 15-meter deep-water cistern is visually more appealing than it sounds as tourists are flocking to view this manmade wonder. The underground well, which has become a popular place for tossing a coin when making a wish, is accessible to pedestrians through intricate mazes of tunnels and walkways that open up into caves and other tanks.

Ipogei, Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Guide to Matera +39 339 363 8332
 10. Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario
If you are interested in what Matera was truly like prior to the evacuation of cave dwellers and consequent restorations, do not exclude this historic site from your to-do list. A true representation of the struggle of that time, a typical Sassi house is on view together with everyday items. It also features a donkey, as it was commonplace back in the day for residents to keep animals in their caves.

Vicinato di Vico Solitario 1, 11 Sasso Caveoso, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario+39 0835 310118

 9. Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista

First recorded as the Santa Maria Nuova  in the early 1200s, the Parrocchia San Giovanni Battisa has had several names, inhabitants, additions, and reconstructions.
Despite that, the Chiesa is still a wonder to behold. The structure incorporates several architectural influences such as Gothic, Greek, Cluniac, Romanseque and Arabic, with foggiali features, balconies, arches and several striking statues, some of which were believed to protect the site.
Today, access is gained through a side entrance. The original façade was built into a neighboring hospital’s garden in 1610, but it can still be seen today.

Via San Biagio, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista +39 083 533 4182

8. Museo della Scultura Contemporanea (MUSMA)

The MUSMA contains international sculptures, drawings, graphics, ceramics, books, photos, medals, and other objet d’art, from the 19th century up to the present day. Additionally, the layout of the museum itself is worth a trip. The 17th-century building was extended into various gigantic underground areas and tunnels within the rock, in true Sassi form, to accommodate the size of the exhibitions. It is little wonder locals call it the, Palace of 100 Rooms.

Palazzo Pomarici – Via San Giacomo (Caveoso), 75100 Matera MT, Basilicata, Italy

Museo della Scultura Contemporanea (MUSMA) +39 083 533 0582

7. The Cattedrale di Matera

The arresting Romanesque-Apulian Matera Cathedral, devoted to Madonna della Bruna, was completed in 1270 on a much older monastery site and overlooks the Sasso Barianso.
One of the many highlights of this impressive structure is the rose window symbolizing the wheel of life or fortune, which was a popular architectural design element of the times. The cathedral reopened its door to the public in 2016 after undergoing reconstruction when it collapsed in 2003. Art appreciators will delight in the frescoes and statues in the cathedral.

Piazza Duomo, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

The Cattedrale di Matera+39 083 533 2012

 6. Museo Archeologico Nazionale Domenico Ridola

The National Archeological museum and the street where it is located are both named after Senator Ridola who gifted his personal archaeology collection in 1911. Beginning as a convent in the 17th century, the building went through various changes. New rooms were added in the 50s and a fixed exhibition dedicated to the Senator in the late 70s. The last changes made were in 1985 and included additions of a warehouses, labs, and offices.

Via Domenico Ridola, 24, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Museo Archeologico Nazionale Domenico Ridola+39 097 132 8111

5. Cripta del Peccato Originale

Thanks to the splendid restoration efforts and involvement of the Fondazione Zetama, one can view several classic frescoes from the 8th-century. The Cripta del Peccato Originale which is housed in a natural fissure has been dubbed as the rock art Sistine Chapel. Artworks depict biblical themes including Adam and Eve in Genesis, the Virgin Mary and portraits of Archangels amongst others. Despite the talent, the ancient artist remains anonymous to this day.  
Please note that reservations are necessary to view this national treasure.

Info Cooperativa Synchronos Recinto Cavone, 5 - 75100 Matera.

Cripta del Peccato Originale+39 320 334 5323

4. Santa Maria de Idris e San Giovanni in Monterrone

Although there are many churches carved from rock in the region, the design of the ethereal Church of the Santa Maria de Idris is definitely one-of-a-kind. The cross of this church is plainly visible from the center of the Sassi de Matera, and is accessible by a wide staircase. 
Parts of the interior of the church predate the exterior with almost 400 years, as the outside had to be repaired due to collapse in the 15th century. Inside the church, you will also find St. Giovanni’s crypt.

Via Madonna dell'Idris, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Santa Maria de Idris e San Giovanni in Monterrone+39 320 787 5341

3. Casa Noha

Forget the old traditional type of museum. If you want to learn everything about Matera including the poverty and sickness that made it necessary for the original inhabitants to evacuate the Sassi  years ago to its present-day vibrancy, stop in at Casa Noha. Through a 20-minute visual and audio presentation that takes you through five rooms, you will brush up on your Matera historical facts in literally no time. This unique multimedia production is available in several languages and what’s more, it is friendly to those that have a hearing impediment. 1259

Recinto Cavone, 9, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Casa Noha+39 083 533 5452

2. Parco delle Chiese Rupestri di Matera

The Natural and Archaeological Park of the Rusperian Churches of Matera is simply called Murgia as well. Across approximately 8000 hectares, you will find the scattered remains of over a hundred of rock churches.
Hikers will enthuse about the array of magnificent crevices, ravines and cliffs, one river and two streams. The park is also home to many fauna and flora species of which a tenth is rare. An impressive sixth of the nation’s flowers and a third of the entire region’s is here too. 

Via Sette Dolori 10, 75100 Matera, Matera, Italy.

Website+39 083 533 6166

1.Sassi di Matera

The Sassi de Matera consists of two metropolises, Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, with the latter being the oldest of the two. Additionally, UNESCO lists Matera as a World Heritage Site along with the Park of the Rusperian Churches. The Sassi are  stone-fronted  cave-homes overlooking a deep breath-taking river gorge.
Although each of these districts has many individual note-worthy attractions including various cave churches, the fact that the Sassi de Matera is so ancient makes it worth looking at the entire town.

75100 Matera MT, Basilicata, Italy.

Website+39 083 533 4033

Activities Available in Matera

  • Sightseeing - Guided walking tours are available that will ensure that you don’t miss any of the main attractions.
    Walk through the modern upper city - The Sassi are full of stairs and narrow walkways, which will lead you to a variety of restaurants and stores on your own.
  • Hiking - Enjoy scenic routes through many popular hiking trails.
  • Sleep in a Cave - There are dozens renovated caverns that allow you to relive history, but with a twist of modern amenities.
  • Bird Watching - Matera is rich in birdlife. Visit San Giuliano and spot up to 150 bird species.
  • Cycling – Join others on several bike routes in Matera or at Colle Timmari.
  • Cultural Enrichment – Matera is a cultural hub with multitudes of museums, art galleries, and other ancient sites.
  • Nightlife – Wine bars and lounges afford travelers with the rare opportunity of mingling with fellow tourists and locals. Cinema – See movies at Cinema Cine Teatro Duni and Nano-Theatre. Cooking Classes – Classes are available for half-day sessions or extended periods. Some even offer Diploma’s upon completion. 

Top Events in Matera

What to eat in Matera

  • Daring Icy Delights beyond Your Wildest Dreams
    For the most exotic ice cream and sorbets in Matera, make sure to order a scoop at I Vizi degli Angeli for a variety of unbelievable tastes in surprisingly delicious combinations of lavender and blueberry or tangerine and basil.
  • Customary Christmas Cookies All Year Round
    Happy Hour O’Llammord offers full meal spreads   ending off with the Matera Christmas time-honored and exceptional cookie known as Strazzate. For the full of experience of Matera you have to have one of these which are also available in vegan friendly versions with or without eggs.
  • Bread is Best, Sir!
     Pane di Matera is traditional salty bread with a hard crust made of wheat and served as a side dish or used in pasta. The Restaurant Le Botteghe is widely renowned as the best restaurant in Matera and serves sumptuous bread and other customary dishes.
  • Crap-i-what?
     Do not let the name put you off! Crapiata is a thick soup made from various beans and wheat. To savor this wholesome meal visit, the Kiev Cafe on Via Bruno Buozzi.
  • Build Your Best Veggie Pizza
     Pizzeria Sant’Agonista Gifoni has a superior basic vegetarian pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, and local chili peppers. Add additional ingredients common to the area like olives or mushrooms to build your perfect pizza. This quaint restaurant is in cave of numerous levels in a main street. You can contact them telephonically at +39 083 533 6593. 

Getting to Matera

To get to Matera all you need to do is get to Italy whichever way is the easiest and then head to Bari. There are no listed direct routes to Matera, which puts many travelers off, but you can get there from Bari via train. The confusion generally occurs at the Bari Centrale Stazioni which does not register Matera as a destination point.
Instead, you can catch a train straight toMatera that is unregistered on the national itinerary from another station along the regional railway of Ferrovie Appuko Lucane. From there it is only a brisk walk of about quarter of an hour until you are at the Sassi.
Alternatively, there are also buses and shuttle services available from various destinations to Matera but these do not only cost more but will take longer to get you where you want to be. 

Getting around and about in Matera (Italy)

Although there are taxis in Matera, you will find that the most common mode of transportation within the Sassi itself will be via foot. Due to the heaped buildings, homes and other structures with narrow streets, the use of vehicles are extremely restricted. However, cyclists may enjoy this over parts of the area particularly along various dedicated bike routes.

To get to spots further out of reach it would be best to consider joining a tour guide agency with a bus or another form of transportation. Beyond that? Expect to walk – a lot!

Where to stay in Matera (Italy)

Hotel Sassi   
Basiliani Hotel

La Dimora di Metollo  
Hotel degli Ulivi 

L’hotel In Pietra  
Sextanio le Grotte della Civate 

Cuccù is a celebrated whistle and is considered the #1 souvenir of Matera.
Nucillo’é Curti is a beloved local walnut liquor that acts as a digestive.

Top Tips for Travelers Traveling to Matera

  • Pack in your walking shoes.
  • If you have a stair phobia – cancel your trip!
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Never touch the wall murals!
  • Don’t skip the museums.

Enjoying Matera on a Budget 

  • Stay in a B&B - The cave accommodations are the most pricey but you can still visit the noteworthy sites during the day.
  • Look for discounts – Many of the attractions offer a price cut off season or booked in advance.
  • Use your feet -  Vehicles are limited and if you get one expect to pay.
  • Self exploration – You can see many of the best sites on your own without a tour guide.
  • Eat bread – This city is soaked in historical poverty. No wonder they are famous for bread. 

Day trips from Matera

Day view from Matera, Italy

Day view from Matera, Italy (Photo Credit: turkish414)

  • First visit must – the Casa Noha and a tour of all other museums
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Guided tour of the Murgia Park

Visitor Information & Useful Links

Piazza Vittorio Venota, 39 – 75100 Matera, MT, Italy.

Matera Informazioni Turstiche+39 329 446 1059

Via Antonio De Viti De Marco, 9 - 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Aziendi di Promozione Turistica della Basilicata+39 0835 331983

Emergency Contact Numbers

Police Departments

Via Giuseppe Gattina, 12 - 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Polizia di Stato – Questura di Matera+39 083 357 8111

Via della Quercia, 3 - 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Corpo Forestale dello Stato Comndo Stazione Matera+39 083 353 3615

Via Annibale Maria, 32 - 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Nucleo Carabinieri Ispettorato del Lavoro+39 083 534 6624


Fire Brigade

Via Giuseppe Giglio, 3- 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Vigil del Fuoco+39 083 533 8311

Via Montescagkiosa, 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Croce Verde Materana Coop. S.R.L.+39 083 531 0066

Medical Help


Via Dante Algigheri, 82- 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Centro Radiologico Lucano+39 083 533 1525
Pharmacy 1

Via Vincenzo Cappelluti, 61- 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Farmacia Dott.G Montesano+39 083 533 5921
Pharmacy 2

Via Dante Alighieri, 61- 75100 Matera MT, Italy.

Farmacia Mott Dott.SSA Antonietta+39 083 533 0751

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