A 5-Minute Guide to Matera


Matera, a rocky hilltop city in Basilicata, is set to be the European Capital of Culture for 2019. But those celebrations are just one reason to visit – our mini travel guide gives you plenty more…

Things to do in Matera

View of hilltop city of Matera

  1. Duck into the sassi. These ancient caves are believed to date back a casual 9,000 years – and locals were living in them right up to the 1950s. These days, they double as shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.

Wandering the cobbled Matera streets.

2. Admire the sculptures at MUSMA (Museo della Scultura Contemporanea). This one-time sassi is filled with modern sculptures by Italian and international artists.

3. Seek out the best viewpoints. There are plenty to choose from, including the snaking boundary road called Via Madonna della Virtù, which is pinioned by panoramic platforms. Some come with stairways that dip down into the valleys and ravines that piece together the surrounding Basilicata countryside.

 Stairs from Matera old town to the gorge

4. Church-hop your way around town. The St. Mary of Idris Church is chipped right out of the rock and comes filled with frescoes. Or there’s always the 13th-century Matera Cathedral. You can’t miss it – its cloud-scraping spire is the highest point in Matera.

5. Try local cuisine. The Ridola Caffè is great if you fancy a mozzarella panino and espresso in a sassi, while hotels offer more in the way of slap-up regional fare.

Where to stay in Matera

Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, Matera, cave room

  1. Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita (above) gives you the chance to stay in a boutique hotel that’s converted from a cluster of sassi. The best bit? The eighth-century cave church – it doubles as the breakfast room.
  2. Hotel Del Campo is an 18th-century aristocrats’ retreat that perches on the outskirts of Matera.
  3. If you fancy something a little more luxurious, try the 15th-century Palazzo Gattini. It makes itself at home right next to Matera Cathedral.

Our favourite Matera holidays

Colourful town in Basilicata countryside

  1. We recommend hiring a car when exploring Basilicata and nearby Puglia. The Undiscovered South tour is the perfect introduction to road-tripping in southern Italy, thanks to a 15-day itinerary that takes in the lesser-visited southern regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Cilento and Calabria.
  2. Puglia is a real rising star, combining rural trulli towns like Alberobello with a dramatic coastline dotted with whitewashed clifftop towns. Take a look at our Puglia and Basilicata driving tour for inspiration.

The trulli villages of Puglia

3. Fancy something even further off the beaten track? Then Calabria is for you. Our Calabria and Basilicata holiday pairs a few nights in Matera with a stay in Tropea, a city best known for its white-sand beaches and rustic food festivals. While you’re over there in the tip of Italy’s toe, why not catch the ferry to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands?

4. If you don’t see a Matera holiday that’s quite right for you, we can create one from scratch – just give our Italy Experts a call on 01293 831778*.

Tempted? Explore our collection of Matera holidays.

*01293 calls are charged at your provider’s local or national rate