Matera – what a city! Anyone who sees the rock city of Matera for the first time cannot help but be impressed.
The sand-colored house facades are lined up next to and on top of each other like in a hidden object picture . The scenery leaves you speechless, reminiscent of a stage set or a film set. All tone on tone, because it is the almost “colorless” stone that Matera is so famous for and that makes such a lasting impression on people’s memories.
Unbelievable but true: Ancient cave dwellings are hidden behind the facades . Once upon a time (and until not so long ago) people lived here in tiny cave dwellings under the most impoverished conditions.
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 Italian: First travel tips at a glance
Worth knowing & exciting facts about Matera
- Matera’s old town consists of cave dwellings , the so-called “Sassi”, 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, you literally see a sea of stones. Don’t be confused: The two old town quarters Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso are also called “Sassi”.
- Matera is ancient. The area was probably inhabited since the Neolithic Age. This makes Matera one of the oldest cities in the world.
- Up until the 1950s, the people of Matera lived in the poorest of conditions – with no running water, no sewage system, no electricity and with an infant mortality rate of almost 50 percent. The Sassi were then cleared.
- The Italian government only recognized the cultural value of Matera’s old town in the 1980s. Η With the help of grants, the caves were gradually renovated.
- Το Matera is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was European Capital of Culture 2019.
How many days should I plan for Matera?
While Matera may only be visited as a day trip by some , we strongly recommend staying the night. Το On the one hand, the mood in the evening and morning hours is very special, on the other hand, there is simply a lot to see.
Το One night είναι στο our eyes the bare minimum for a stay in Matera. Two nights are much better and with three nights you may even be able to explore some of the surrounding countryside that is 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 over everything: 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 quarters: Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. The historic old town of Matera is therefore also called Sassi di Matera .
Don’t even try to keep your bearings . 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.
Felsenkirchen in Matera
The impressive rock churches (“Chiese rupestri”) are among the most famous sights in the historic old town of Matera. As the name suggests, these are churches carved in stone.
The unique cave architecture is not at all reminiscent of a church interior as one is otherwise used to it. Therefore, a visit to at least one of the rock churches of Matera στο is a must for our eyes. The three most famous rock churches are:
- San Pietro Barisano
- Santa Lucia alle Malve
- Saint Mary of 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). This way you will at least get a few historical details.
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Information zum Besuch der Felsenkirchen von Matera in Overview
Admission: 1 church 4 euros, combination ticket 3 churches 8 euros
Photo: Is not allowed inside – not even without a flash.
At the highest point of the city, between the two districts of Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, sits the gigantic Matera Cathedral.
The mighty cathedral dates back to the 13th 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.
Incidentally, 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.
Pretty impressive: below Matera there were once five public cisterns (as well as numerous other private ones) for the city’s water supply . You can visit the largest of them, Palombaro Lungo.
From the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, stairs lead you down into the gigantic cave system. The cistern dates from the 16th century. As everywhere in Matera, these caves were also created artificially.
A narrow path takes you across the water through the cistern and back again. You have seen everything quickly and would like to linger longer because the dimensions are really impressive.
Information on visiting the Palombaro Lungo at a glance
Entrance: 3 Euro
Opening hours and further information: Palombaro Lungo (Official Website)
Cave house in the Sassi of Matera
Would you like to get an insight into life in the cave dwellings of yesteryear ? 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, sprawling 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.
Information on visiting the Casa Grotta at a glance
Admission: 5 euros
Our tip: It can get pretty cramped in there. If you don’t want to step on each other’s toes, you should probably come early or late.
Opening hours and further information: Casa Grotta (official website)
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3. The most beautiful viewpoints in Matera
If you ask us: the most spectacular thing about Matera is simply the breathtaking view of the city. No matter from which perspective: The sea of stone houses is just such an impressive photo motif. Without words!
Don’t worry: if you embark on a journey of discovery through Matera, you will probably pass most of the vantage points anyway. Nevertheless, we would like to briefly present our favorite views in this chapter.
Convent of Sant’Agostino
Το We call είναι “Signature Gaze”. Or also 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 just a few minutes from here. From its terrace you can enjoy a very similar view, but you can celebrate it even better with a Ποτό γρήγορο.
Belvedere Luigi Guerricchio
From this small, hidden viewing terrace you also have a great view of Matera. Located directly on the spacious Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the viewpoint is free and accessible 24 hours a day.
Belvedere in 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. We went here in the evening just after the city lights came on – very atmospheric!
Belvedere Murgia Timone
Τελευταίο αλλά όχι λιγότερο σημαντικό: 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. That’s why you’re looking at Matera from a distance.
And something else is different: the walking time. This vantage point can be reached after about Περιπλανώμενο 40 λεπτών. First 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. All the scenery in the gorge and the view from the viewpoint are worth seeing.
A little tip: if you don’t want to climb that many meters in altitude, you can alternatively drive in from the other side by car. From the parking lot you then have to walk about 1.5 Χιλιόμετρο (but 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 touristy. Recommended: In the restaurants served meals at the next table, tourists are more likely to be seated than locals. But it doesn’t matter, we still ate very well. Here is our favourite:
Osteria al Casale: Very nice osteria built into a rock with rather minimalistic furnishings. 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 to recommend.
La Lopa: Very popular, relatively hip restaurant in the old town of Matera. The menu features Italian classics – some with a modern interpretation. 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 particularly recommended 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.
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5. Our accommodation tip for Matera
Of course, the most rustic way to stay in Matera is to choose accommodation right in the historic old town (Sassi di Matera). Numerous stylishly renovated cave dwellings are particularly popular.
But be careful: It is not uncommon for these cave rooms to have a moisture problem and little (or no) daylight. We therefore decided on something “in between” and booked a room (“Deluxe Room”) στο Ai Maestri Rooms & Cafe – the very best decision!
In a wonderful way, the cave flair was combined with modern, stylish elements . The entire facility (bed, bed linen, TV κ.λπ.) Are extremely high quality, the bathroom is an absolute highlight.
Two mini downsides: Our 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 warmly recommend the accommodation. You feel very welcome and comfortable, which is also due to the extremely helpful owners. We would come back softly.
You can book accommodation here: Ai Maestri Rooms & Cafe
6. Καρτέ: All sights and tips at a glance
To make it easier for you to find your way around, 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. Other travel tips: arrival, parking, security etc.
Location: Where is Matera?
Matera is located in southern Italy, more precisely in the Basilicata region. It makes sense 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 στο Μπάρι. 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 a car directly at Bari Airport. 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 personally we would be more inclined to book a private transfer from the airport to Matera (or take the train/bus). Στο Matera itself brings you exactly nothing in a car – more on that in a moment.
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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).
Είναι επίσης 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. Theoretically, you can walk to your accommodation from some car parks (if you don’t have much luggage). But be careful: it often goes up and downhill. We would only choose this option if your accommodation is really just around the corner.
We chose the much more convenient valet parking στο «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 Ευρώ per day – incl. Λεωφορείο to the hotel and back.
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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: It really is a Πρόβλημα here in the south of Italy.
There’s a reason why you get a folder with safety tips when you rent a car with the rental car contract. 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 cell phone, money κλπ. 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.
- Personally, we 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.
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