Matera, or more commonly known as the city of Sassi, is one of the most unique destinations you can visit this year. It’s this unseen mixture of beauty, culture, charming landscapes and history that goes way…way back. After all, there is no doubt why this city has become such an inspiration to big movies like The Passion of the Christ.
Matera is actually the third oldest inhabited city in the world – but it’s no surprise that it is unheard of. The city is famous for the houses that are carved into the cliffs.What once were the shame of Italy have now become the reason the city has been chosen as the 2019 European Capital of Culture – and it’s the perfect ode to how unchanged and unaffected (in the best way possible) the city has stayed.
Life in Matera went on around the timeless settlements – and it effortlessly mingled charming flora and fauna, gorgeous churches, and nature. This is the city to go to if you want to explore hidden treasures, walk around ancient streets, stay at a hotel carved into the rock, and learn all about the ancient history that makes this place what it is today.
How to Spend One Day in Matera:
Here’s what to see if you plan to visit Matera for just one day.
First stop: I Sassi
The first thing you’ll hear when it comes to Matera is the “Sassi”. This UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s the center of the city that is a labyrinth of history on its own. The labyrinth is a mixture of caves turned into houses, stone churches, gardens, terraces and much more. Make sure you explore the two different districts – Sasso Barisano and Sasso Cavoso. The first is where you’ll find the shops and restaurants, while the second is where you go for actual history that is preserved from the Paleolithic era!
To get the most out of it all, visit it on foot, get lost in its alleys, indulge in its views.
You can also opt for a two hour walking tour, where you will discover the historic cave dwellings known as Sassi, admire the rock-hewn churches with ancient frescoes and more.
Second stop: Piazza Pascoli
If you want to get an amazing view of both districts together, then you walk over to Piazza Pascoli. This is like going through a natural window that gives you unparalleled views of the Sassi districts and historical and artistic sites.
Third stop: Casa Noha
This house museum will take you through a journey back to when people used to carve their houses into the caves. You will get to understand, firsthand, how people used to live back then. There is also an interesting documentary that are projected right unto the stone walls that will tell you everything you could possibly want to know.
Fourth stop: Cave Churches
There are two cave churches that defy all expectation. The Santa Maria de Idris church is nestled into a cave and has a gorgeous Rupesterian structure with internal passages that you can explore and frivolous architecture, art and of course – a lot of history.
Extra: The natural areas of Matera
The whole territory of the Basilicata region boasts beautiful nature. If you want to add some nature to your trip, I highly recommend venturing off towards the nature reserves, parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the surrounding region.
Stay at a cave hotel
It would be a waste if you visited Matera without staying at one of its quintessential cave hotels. I mean, where else can you even do that? This unique experience will certainly take your trip to the next level.
You can choose anything from basic hotels to actual places that were former palaces.
Tours you can take around Matera:
If you want to experience a more local side of Matera, you need to take a tour to see a whole other side of the city.
Bread from Matera
What better way to get to know a city than by learning about how its food is made? You can learn all about how the traditional bread from Matera is made by going on a bread tour to the old wood-burning bakery there.
Venosa and the Aglianico Wine
Not only is this where Horatio was born, but it’s also a chance for you to get to go on a tour of wine tasting in an ancient cellar. Of course, add to this serene walks surrounded by greenery, gorgeous views and dinner and you’ve got yourself the perfect tour.
For more information and to select the best tour for you visit the Ferula Viaggi website.
Indulge on culinary delights in Matera
During our one day trip in Matera we stopped for a wine and local delicacies break at the La Gattabuia serving traditional cuisine of Basilicata. This charming restaurant with an impressive wine cellar which offers a selection of more than 80 wine labels is located a few steps from the Piazza del Sedile of Matera.
The interior is completed with unique wood and stone furnishings which were made in Matera exclusively for the restaurant. Here we tried Peperoni cruschi di Senise IGP which are delicious crispy peppers, a local specialty from the region. We also had creamed codfish dip like paste which is rolled in bread chips. A delicious mix of codfish, potatoes, onions, capers and anchovies.
There was also a mixed selection of meats. We paired our light lunch with Ovo di Elena white wine produced by Masseria Cardillo. Is has perfumes of elder and white pulp fruit and goes perfectly with fish and meat appetisers.
We also savoured the red Monacello 2015 which is a Primitivo produced in Matera. A fantastic grape variety and one of my favourites.
How to get to Matera
We visited Matera during our trip of discovering Puglia, and stayed in Ginosa which is the closest arrival destination from Bari. There are plenty of ways you can get there:
- By car: You can easily rent a car from the Bari airport and it will give you the ultimate experience, since you’ll have full freedom of when, what and how to explore. Make sure you ask ahead regarding parking.
- Train: If you want to travel to Matera by train, you can do that by taking a 1.5 hour train from Bari. Take the train from Bari North Station then take a train to Matera Centrale.
- If you’re coming from Rome than you can take the Ferrandina-Pomarico-Miglionico from there.
Find out more about our Puglia trip in these articles:
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