European Capital of Culture 2019, Matera and its Sassi are a naturalistic beauty that offers an unrepeatable experience. Unesco World Heritage, the famous Sassi are the main attraction of Matera, but not the only one.
Divided between the old and the new, in Matera you can see and breathe the ancient that relives in the present without any deformation. Indeed, with extreme and enviable adaptation. This is precisely the charm of the city!
In addition to the houses carved into the tuff, the rock churches, hypogea and the breathtaking views that open onto the Gravina, the upper part of the city boasts attractions such as the Cathedral, the Tramontano Castle and respectable museums.
Here is a list of things to see during a visit to Matera.
- 10 things to see in Matera in a weekend
- What to see in Matera in one day: recommended itinerary
- Where to eat in Matera: the best restaurants
- What to do in the evening: the nightlife areas and the best clubs in Matera
- Plan your stay in Matera: info and useful tips
- User questions and comments
10 things to see in Matera in a weekend
1 - Sassi of Matera
UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993, the Sassi di Matera are two very particular districts of Matera: Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, formed by rupestrian buildings and architectures carved into the rock of the Murgia of Matera and inhabited since prehistoric times.
Famous all over the world, they constitute the main attraction of the city and the region itself.
The architecture of the Sassi di Matera tells the man's ability to adapt perfectly to the environment and natural context, skilfully using simple characteristics such as the constant temperature of the excavated environments, the calcarenite of the rocky bank and the exploitation of the slopes. It is possible to go up and down the numerous alleys that alternate between the buildings independently, finding yourself in always different and surprising corners, or you can opt for a guided tour of the Sassi, to get to know and absorb the magic of this unique place.
- take one of the alleys that start from the historic center, specifically: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi, Via del Corso, Via Ridola, Piazzetta Pascoli - Get directions
- always accessible
- guided walking tour guided tour of the Sassi
2 - Park of the Murgia
The Natural Historical Archaeological Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Materano is aprotected natural area of Basilicata which contains one of the most spectacular rocky landscapes the world.
A territory of approx 8.000 hectares of which about 1.000 inserted byUNESCO in 2007 in the World Heritage List together with the Sassi of Matera.
Developed along i canyons carved by the Gravina di Matera and the Gravina di Picciano, both tributaries of the Bradano, the park is located on the opposite side of the Sassi di Matera.
It is made up different environments, first of all that River della Gravina di Matera which for 20 kilometers runs through the center of the canyon until it joins the Bradano river in Montescaglioso.
In a landscape that wooded areas, agricultural areas with farms and Mediterranean scrub, a continuous alternation of steep slopes, valleys, small valleys, ravines, terraces and plateaus, where there are numerous species of great botanical and faunal interest.
The park contains a large number of rock villages that testify the human settlements from prehistory to the modern age.
- 5 minutes by car from Matera, along the SS 7 towards Taranto and following the signs "CEA / Centro Visite" - Get directions
- Nov-Mar 9: 00-13: 30, Apr-Oct 9: 30-13: 00/16: 00-18: 30. On reservation also open after hours
- free. If you want to participate in guided tours, the rates vary from € 7,50 to € 20,00
- Tour of the rock churches in the Murgia Park
3 - Cave house in the Sassi
Typical cave house furnished with period furniture and tools which offers visitors a precise idea of how the family life in the houses of the Sassi.
It represents an excellent example to be able to know and understand the evolution of Matera's peasant history and culture; as well as to better understand habits and customs of the inhabitants of the ancient districts of the Sassi of Matera before their abandonment
The house consists of four rooms excavated on three levels, with attached stable and cellar. Next to the cave house there is the laboratory of "sound ceramic" where you can admire the exhibition of the terracotta whistles, typical of the area, made entirely by hand.
- about 700 meters from Piazza Duomo, 9 min on foot - Get directions
- 10:00AM - 20:00PM
- € 3,00
- Walking tour of the Sassi of Matera
4 - Cathedral of Matera
And the main church of Matera. Built in the th century on the highest spur of the Civita that divides the two Sassi, the cathedral was, most probably, initially dedicated to Sant'Eustachio, since it was built on a part of land where the Benedictine monastery dedicated to the saint once stood.
The facade, in Apulian-Romanesque style, is decorated with a rose window, blind arches and columns, as well as the statues of the Madonna and various saints; on the right façade stands the Porta dei Leoni, and the four-storey bell tower stands out above all.
The interior, in the shape of a Latin cross, is a bright Baroque triumph.
The reason for his dedication dates back to a legend according to which a carter gave a ride to what later turned out to be the Madonna. The epithet "della Bruna" instead has different explanations: according to some it derives from the color of the young woman's skin, according to others to the medieval meaning of brunette as armor, and therefore Protectress Madonna.
- in Piazza Duomo, 16 min walk from the train station - Get directions
- 9:00AM - 19:00PM
- 2 hour walking tour
5 - MUSMA - Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
The most important Italian museum entirely dedicated to sculpture.
Illustrates the history of Italian and international sculpture from the late 1800s to today with a rich body of works: sculptures, ceramics, medals, jewels, drawings, graphic works, artist's books.
It is also enriched by a collection of monographs, art catalogs, literary and non-fiction texts, original photographs, documents destined for the Vanni Scheiwiller Library, to whose constitution Alina Kalczynska, wife of the well-known publisher and collector, contributed.
Inserted in the suggestive setting of Pomarici Palace, the MUSMA represents thethe only "cave" museum in the world, where the visitor can experience a perfect symbiosis, of intense emotional impact, between the secular environments excavated by man and contemporary sculptures.
In fact, the museum spaces cover not only the built-up areas of the Palace, but also the large excavated hypogea.
- from Piazza Duomo take the arch near the Palazzo Gattini hotel and enter via San Potito. Turn right along Recinto San Giacomo and go down the steps of via San Giacomo - Get directions
- 10: 00-18: 00. Closed on Mondays
- € 5,00
- 2 hour walking tour
6 - Rock church of Santa Maria di Idris
Significant example of rock church, that is, carved into the rock.
It rises in the upper part of the limestone rock spur called Montirone or Monterrone, near San Pietro Caveoso.
A place of worship with a curious and suggestive aspect that infuses an air of sacredness to all the splendid surrounding view; the location is indeed wonderful: it offers a unique panorama of the city and the Gravina.
Dating back to the th-th century, the church of Santa Maria di Idris is part of a rock complex which includes the oldest crypt dedicated to San Giovanni in Monterrone, where they are located frescoes well preserved.
The church has an irregular plan and is characterized by two distinct parts: one built and one excavated.
The facade, modest and made of tuff, was rebuilt in the fifteenth century following a collapse, and is embellished by a small but elegant bell tower.
The name Idris it almost certainly derives from the Greek Odigitria, which means "guide of the way", or "water". In Constantinople the Virgin Mary was called and venerated in this way, whose cult was introduced in southern Italy by Byzantine monks.
- starting from Piazza Duomo (500 meters) go towards Piazza San Pietro Caveoso, take via Madonna dell'Idris (the last street on the right). Go straight and go up several flights of stairs - Get directions
- 9:00-19:00. In inverno 10:00-16:00
- € 3,00
- Walking tour of the park of the rock churches
7 - Tramontano Castle
located on Lapillo hill, overlooks the historic center of the city of Matera.
The castle was built starting from 1501 by Count Giovan Carlo Tramontano, feudal lord of Matera, and is in Aragonese style with a central keep and two lower side towers. The purpose was to defend the city along the most exposed side, but it remained unfinished due to the killing of the Count.
Today the two towers, connected by a bridge, have undergone changes as the bridge was destroyed.
The very high cost of the work and the very low wages of the workers contributed to exacerbate the spirits of the Matera people who put an end to the abuses in one of the most violent pages of the city history. The moral of this story can be read in the motto on the city coat of arms that reads "Bos lassus firmius figit pedem", which means "the tired ox sinks its paw more firmly" to signify the vehemence of a peaceful people when tired of excessive harassment.
- from piazza del Duomo via Via delle Beccherie: 800 meters, 11 minutes on foot - Get directions
- external visit always accessible
- free external visit
- Guided walking tour
8 - Convent of Sant'Agostino
Developed on the rocky spur at the northern end of the Sassi, it arises as bulwark and limit of the urban development of the Sasso Barisano.
The convent was founded by the will of the monks of the order of the Eremitani in 1592; in 1734 a terrible earthquake ruined the entire complex and then, in the nineteenth century, following the Napoleonic subversive laws and the process of National Unity, it underwent alternating fortunes assuming functions other than religious ones. Today it is the seat of the offices of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities.
The facade, a fine example of late Baroque architecture, spread over two levels; in the lower part, the portal is surmounted by a niche with the statue of Saint Augustine, represented according to traditional iconography, with long beard and gaunt face, decorated miter on his head and large cloak, while holding the church with his left hand.
The interior is richly embellished with many other artistic and decorative elements.
- 550 meters from Piazza Duomo (8 minutes on foot) via Via Gradoni Duomo and Via D'Addozio - Get directions
- 9:00AM - 19:00PM
- Guided walking tour
9 - Palombaro Lungo
The largest underground water cistern of the city of Matera, located under the pavement of Piazza Vittorio Veneto, where rain and spring waters from the hills of La Nera, Lapillo and Macamarda converge.
Its construction dates back to the 1991th century, while it was only rediscovered in .
With the tuff walls covered with a particular plaster that makes it waterproof, the cistern is part of a water collection system much more complex that extends under the districts of the Sassi.
In addition to the Palombaro Lungo, the city water system included numerous other smaller cisterns connected to each other.
In the past, the system served as a source of water supply for all buildings placed "on the floor", that is, immediately outside the Sassi.
This particularity was among the main characteristics that contributed to making the Sassi di Matera become UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
- the complex of the Hypogea in piazza Vittorio Veneto, which also contains the Palombaro Lungo, extends into the central piazza Vittorio Veneto - Get directions
- guided tours every hour from 10:00 to 18:00. In winter on reservation
- € 3,00
- Guided walking tour
10 - National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata
Opened in 2003, it is one of the most recent museums in Matera.
Located in the suggestive rooms of Lanfranchi Palace, the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of the Basilicata Region is divided into three sections: Sacred Art, Collectibles and Contemporary Art.
The first collects paintings, stone sculptures, wooden statues, silver and frescoes from all over the region. These are over 100 works created over a period of time from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.
The second section is dedicated to D'Errico collection. 70 paintings are on display made available by the homonymous Moral Body, which is based in Palazzo S. Gervasio.
In the third and last section the exhibition of 44 works by Carlo Levi.
Palazzo Lanfranchi is the greatest monument that represents the seventeenth-century period in Matera. The sculpture is placed in front of the door "The Drop" by Kengiro Azuma.
- 550 meters from Piazza Duomo (6 minutes on foot) via Via Domenico Ridola - Get directions
- 10: 00-20: 00. Closed on Wednesday morning
- € 3,00
- 2 hour walking tour
What to see in Matera in one day: recommended itinerary
Breakfast at the renowned Caffè Schiuma, the best coffee in town (€ 3,50).
And then off, immersion in the Sassi. You can choose whether to visit them in total autonomy and freedom or to take advantage of one of the many guided tours (from € 15,00).
The morning will be spent in an up and down through the narrow alleys. Among ancient tuff houses, vegetable gardens, small gardens and rock churches, make a stop at the Cave house, an interesting house-museum that will give you an idea of how people once lived in these houses.
For lunch, delight in Lucanian specialties in a tuff cave at the Bacchantes (€ 35,00).
Finish your tour in the Sassi enjoying some panoramic glimpse of the Murge Park, on the opposite side, and then go up to the "new" city.
Visit the Cathedral and the particular Palombaro Lungo, the largest underground water cistern.
According to your artistic tastes you can choose whether to visit the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata Palazzo Lanfranchi or the more contemporary MUSMA, Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.
Admire the spectacle of the sunset on the Sassi from the terrace and have dinner at the Baccus Restaurant (€ 50,00).
One day itinerary at a glance
- Breakfast at Caffè Schiuma
- Sassi di Matera (always accessible and free)
- Casa Grotta (10: 00-20: 00, € 3,00)
- Lunch at Baccanti
- Pontifical Basilica Cathedral of Maria Santissima della Bruna and Sant'Eustachio (9: 00-19: 00, free)
- Palombaro Lungo (guided tours every hour from 10:00 to 18:00. In winter by reservation, € 3,00)
- National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata Palazzo Lanfranchi (10: 00-20: 00. Closed on Wednesday morning. € 3,00)
- MUSMA, Museum of Contemporary Sculpture (10: 00-18: 00. Closed on Mondays. € 5,00)
- Dinner at Baccus Restaurant
Where to eat in Matera: the best restaurants
- Morgan Restaurant: charming place with typical Lucanian cuisine of truly quality
Average price per person: € 40,00
Address and contacts: via Bruno Buozzi, 2 (Get directions) / tel: 0835 312233
- Quattroquarti - Crust and crumb: small place in the historic center that mainly does take-away; there are only 4 tables. Ideal for a quick lunch break. Puccia specialty.
Average price per person: € 5,00
Address and contacts: via Ascanio Persio, 25 (Get directions) / tel: 371 428 2899
- Basquiat, the restaurant: small room (22 seats) with open kitchen. Dishes cooked with fresh and high quality products.
Average price per person: € 55,00
Address and contacts: via lucana, 3 (Get directions) / tel: 335 543 8682
What to do in the evening: the nightlife areas and the best clubs in Matera
Matera in the evening is ready to amaze.
It is teeming with movement at any time of the day, but during the weekend, and throughout the summer, it becomes the a favorite destination also for all those who live in neighboring countries and who move here in search of entertainment and special events.
Although for some time there has been debate on whether or not to allow it nightlife in the Sassi, there is no doubt that these are the nerve center of the city. Especially the lower part of the Sasso Barisano is a succession of many bars and clubs that have now become cult of the Matera nightlife.
So also in the evening immerse yourself in this fantastic scenery to sip a drink or an aperitif with a breathtaking view.
And finally, given that the city has shown a particular propensity for everything that is art and culture, theatrical performances, concerts, film reviews and exhibitions are the subject of a very busy schedule.
The best pubs, clubs and discos
- Shibuya, one of the places that young people from Matera literally take by storm.
Address: vico purgatorio, 12 (Get directions)
- Area 8: vintage-style multipurpose room where themed evenings are organized and you can even dance.
Address: via casalnuovo, 15 (Get directions)
- Mail 39: live music, rock and pop style, with guests from the area and neighboring countries.
Address: via casalnuovo, 39 (Get directions)
Plan your stay in Matera: info and useful tips
- from Bari airport (60 km) can be reached by shuttle bus (€ 6,00) - flights from € 50,00. Alternatively, the city is well connected to the railway line
- Getting around: the historic center and the Sassi, due to their conformation, can be explored on foot
- Where to park: the following car parks are adjacent to the historic center and convenient for walking down to the Sassi. Piazza Cesare Firrao, Piazza Kennedy, Via Cappelluti, Autoservizi Damasco (pay attention to the ZTL access - call the parking lot to get authorized), Via Lucana, Piazza della Visitazione, Via Aldo Moro - FAL station
- Hotel and b & b starting from € 40,00 per room -
- What to see in the surroundings: Ginosa (26,8 km - 33 min by car), Altamura (18,5 km - 22 min by car), Alberobello (68,9 km - 1 hour 4 min by car), Lake San Giuliano (20,2 km - 19 min by car), Gravina in Puglia (26,9 km - 29 min by car), Cisternino and Locorotondo (76,1 km - 1 hour 11 min by car)