Matera is the capital of the Matera province in the Basilicata region of Italy. It boasts the sassi: well-preserved rock-cut settlements that are a World Heritage site and one of Southern Italy's many important attractions.
Matera is a fairly big city of around 60,000 people. One of its quarters is the old city. Just outside the old city are the Sassi - cave houses dug into the limestone rocks. The sassi are located on both sides of a valley. On the north side the Sasso Barisano have been partially commercially developed as offices and housing. The Sasso Caveoso, on the south side, is the most historically interesting.
Matera is a "European Capital of Culture" for 2019, an honour it shares with Plovdiv. Be prepared for huge tour groups clogging up the narrow alleys and stairways in the old town, especially on Sundays and holidays.
Matera is most easily reached from Bari in the Apulia region. The Ferrovie Appulo Lucane (FAL) runs trains from Bari to 1 Matera Centrale, taking 1 hr 30 min with departures every 1-2 hr during the daytime. The FAL train station in Bari is just outside of Bari Centrale and is toward the left as you walk out onto the large piazza with the buses and fountain. The FAL does not run trains on Sunday, and does not accept rail passes. Tickets are approximately €5 each way; be sure to stamp your ticket with the machines before boarding. There is a direct bus connection to Bari Airport with Pugliairbus (1 hr 15 min, tickets from €3).
After exiting Matera Centrale, there is a piazza to the left with various buses. From here, "Linea Sassi" buses to I Sassi di Matera every 30 min; the inexpensive tickets are sold upon boarding. The Sassi can also be reached on foot in about 20 minutes by walking straight ahead downhill from the piazza. The Sassi can only be explored on foot, and tourist information is available locally.
Old city. From the station walk down via Roma to Piazza Veneto and take the stairs down into the old city.
- 1 Church of San Pietro Barisano.
- 2 Matera Cathedral (Duomo di Matera), Piazza Duomo, 7. Roman Catholic church with a 90-m-high spire that stands out in the Matera skyline.
- 3 San Pietro Caveoso (Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church).
- Caveoso cave churches. Entrance to the four main ones is €6.
- 4 Church of San Giovanni Battista.
- Hike in the hills around Matera. For example walk down from the north east of the city, cross the ravine and hike back up the hill to the 1 Belvedere di Murgia Timone for a view of the city from the other side.
- The Women's Fiction Festival is held late every September in the Sassi District, and attracts an international contingent of writers, agents and editors.
- Guided tours, ☏ +39 3287666621, firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00-18:00. Join a guided tour with a private guide or in a group
- Ape nei Sassi (Ape tour Matera), Via Casalnuovo 329, ☏ +39 3294658589, email@example.com. Panoramic tour with Ape car. €15-25.
- 2 Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera. A protected natural area, part of the "Sassi di Matera" UNESCO site - but outside the city. In addition to about 150 rock churches scattered along Murgia and the ravines, the deep limestone groove Gravine di Matera can be visited.
There are many restaurants in the old city as well as outside.
- Cafe Stone Age close to St. Antonius church in th Caveoso has a nice little terrace with flowers in pots and cold beers from all over the world.
There are common hotels in Matera, but sleeping in the caves is a completely different experience. There are hotels, but consider that you can enjoy the place staying in one of the many B&Bs in the old town.
- Sant'Angelo Luxury Resort, Via Fiorentini, 259, ☏ +39 0835-334583, fax: +39 0835-330021, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Made up of 16 historical dwellings, each with an average surface area of 50 m² that correspond with other cave dwellings whose interiors have been reproduced and divided into various dwellings with living rooms. All rooms are furnished with: private bath, telephone, satellite television, air conditioning, a safe and mini-bar. Double €95.
- Hotel Casalnuovo, via Casalnuovo 116 (Residence del Casalnuovo), ☏ +39 0835312329. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:30. Hotel Residence nei Sassi di Matera. 87.
- Hotel Il Belvedere, Via Casalnuovo 133, ☏ +39 0835311702, email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00.
- B&B Casastella (B&B Casastella Matera), Via casalnuovo 257 (Near to St. Barbara rocky church), ☏ +39 0835310272, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00-22:00, check-out: 11:00. B&B in a cave located in the Sassi of Matera. The breakfast is always included. The property is in part cut into the rock, with the remaining structure built on four levels with characteristic barrel-vaulted ceilings, restored from characteristic peasant dwellings such as the granary, stable, barn and wine cellar.
If you hire a tour guide, be sure it is a licensed one. Many people there might stop you, and attempt to offer unofficial tourist services. Don't trust them much, they only care about getting money from you.