Matera was a stage of our wider tour, which started from Bari, to discover the beauties of Puglia.
We took our time to discover this city rich in history, spending 2 full days to visit it, which proved to be perfect for appreciating its beauty without too much haste. The city lends itself in fact to being visited on foot, to discover the most beautiful and characteristic views.
It is divided into two main districts: Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. The first is the largest district, where there are several shops, hotels and restaurants, while the second is the most historic, where you can breathe even more the air of the rock city.
We followed the recommended route on the map that you find at this link and we also give you this with the points of interest. After following these routes, however, our advice is: get lost!
Let yourself be guided by your instinct and take the routes that intrigue you: we are sure that only in this way you will truly immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of Matera as we did.
In this article we have decided to collect the points of interest that were fundamental for us to better know and understand the history of this incredible city, ordering them according to a logical-temporal order.
A journey through time in the heart of the city
We advise you to start from Casa Noha, a house that belonged to a noble from Matera today transformed into a museum, where you will travel through time with an interesting documentary. A truly exciting journey, from the Paleolithic to today, touching even the darkest moments, when Matera was called "the city of shame".
The second fundamental step is to visit some of the cave Churches carved into the rock. They are characterized by beautiful frescoes that testify the passage through time of the Benedictines, Lombards and Byzantines. There are so many and you will therefore have to make a choice of which ones to visit. For us the most beautiful are Santa Maria de Idris and Santa Lucia alle Malve.
To understand how people once lived in Matera, visit one of its cave-houses: we have chosen the cave-house of Vico Solitario. In this unique room, an entire family lived with its animals until the 1960s. The guide's story will help you to imagine the complexity and difficulties of that period, a truly touching experience.
An unusual building that deserves a visit is undoubtedly the cistern of the Palombaro Lungo. Positioned under the main square of the city, it was created by joining several pre-existing caves. It was only recently discovered (1991) and its impressive dimensions, embellished by the tuff walls with rounded arches, will leave you speechless. It could hold up to 5 million liters of water! Strolling through it (stay limited to 10min), we are sure that you will feel very small in proportion!
Among the more recent religious buildings, the Church of San Pietro Caveoso deserves to be mentioned, built on a previous rock structure. The church, which has undergone several alterations over the years, is located near the Gravina stream and overlooks the square of the same name, where some scenes of the last 007: No time to die were shot.
The most impressive religious building is undoubtedly the Cathedral of Matera, located at the highest point of the city, the so-called Civita. It is characterized by a Romanesque-Apulian facade and from its square you can also enjoy an incomparable view of Sasso Barisano. Its opulent interior, in contrast to the external sobriety, is in the Baroque style.
It is also worth mentioning the Church dedicated to San Francesco and the Church of Purgatory not far away, with its unusual portal (unfortunately we have always found it closed).
Not to be missed, we also recommend a couple of viewpoints for some breathtaking photos.
We conclude our journey through time with some works of modern art that you find scattered around the center of Matera. Since 2017, in the heart of the Sasso Barisano there are several sculptures of thoughtful women and girls by the Roman artist Margherita Grasselli, who observe the city from their vantage points.
Starting from 2018, Matera also hosts works by the Spanish Dalì, among which the dissolved clock in via Madonna delle Virtù, the dancing piano in piazza San Francesco d'Assisi and the wading elephant in piazza Vittorio Veneto stand out. There is also an exhibition, located inside the rock Church of the Madonna delle Virtù and San Nicola dei Greci.
Murgia Materana Park
To get away from the city, you can reach the Murgia Materana Park with a short trek, crossing the Tibetan Bridge over the Gravina. We recommend comfortable shoes and clothing, as well as enough water to counter the heat. Arrived on the other side of the stream, you will be able to walk along a rather beaten and uphill path, which skirts several ancient caves. You decide how far you want to walk!
Matera also gave us the opportunity to meet a couple of guys we had met on social media, Cristiano and his wife, who kept us company for one evening, telling us something more about the history of the city and its palio as true locals. It was really nice and interesting!
Not far from Matera, do not miss the Crypt of the Original Sin. A small chapel, immersed in the countryside, discovered only a short time ago (1963). For the beauty of its paintings, it is called the "Sistine Chapel" of the rock age and through the guided tour you will be able to better understand its details and history.
Before your trip
- How to get there? We reached it from Bari, with a rental car. Certainly the most flexible solution. Just outside the historic center, there are several parking spaces, some even free
- Where to stay? We have chosen a beautiful structure in Sasso Barisano: L'Affaccio. It is managed by the kind Angela, the room is functional and tastefully furnished. The property also has a wonderful balcony with an unforgettable view of the Sassi
- How many days? We have dedicated to Matera two days, perfect for discovering it without haste and enjoying the view of the Sassi from sunrise to sunset
- Where to eat? These are the restaurants we have chosen:
- Regiacorte Restaurant & Lounge: perfect restaurant for a special and romantic dinner, with a unique view of Sasso Caveoso and the church of Santa Maria de Idris. Refined cuisine and impeccable dish, prices appropriate to quality and location
- Osteria Pico: typical osteria in the historic center, it offers tasty home-made first courses, in generous portions
- Keiv: perfect place for a quick and tasty lunch overlooking the Church of San Pietro Caveoso. The tasty bruschetta prepared with local products and the classic broad beans and chicory are delicious. Friendly service and fair prices
- Where to eat on the go? For a quick snack while walking around the city we recommend
- Panificio Paoluccio: historic oven in the city where you can buy delicious focaccias
- Caffè Schiuma: where to taste the typical sweets called "tette delle monache", soft sponge cake filled with cream
- Where to have a drink? The most particular place for a drink is undoubtedly Area 8, with a pleasant and ironic atmosphere, it has some outdoor tables and several indoor rooms. The cocktails are truly original and can be accompanied with really tasty appetizers
- Anything to be booked in advance? The only entrance that must be booked in advance is the one to the Crypt of the Original Sin. Given the small size, access is guaranteed to a few people at a time, find all the information on its website
- What to buy as souvenirs? Among the products to take home as a souvenir of your trip, we recommend the delicious cruschi (i.e. crunchy) peppers, which you can find in various shops around the city and the characteristic bread stamps, handcrafted in wood. At one time they were used to distinguish the loaves that were brought to the common ovens for cooking. These too can be found in various shops, but we recommend those in the small shop in Vico Solitario, 21, which are truly artisanal
Finally we leave you some shots of Matera at night: a show not to be missed !!!