I can’t believe it was a BBC program ‘Italy Unpacked’ that made me think of planning a trip to Matera. I said I cannot believe it as I have been travelling to the south of Italy since I was a child
Where is Matera and things to do.
Matera is in the region of Basilicata, south of Italy. For our first visit we booked one night at the unique hotel Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita .This is an ‘albergo difusso’ (in Italy diffused hotels respect original heritage of the place) with spectacular views over the Murgia National Park. Their rooms are unique, you will be sleeping in a cave eating your meals in what it was originally a Rupestrian Church and enjoying astonishingly beautiful views over the rocky mountains. It’s quite expensive but you won’t find a better place to stay in this town
Matera was declared Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993 and it’s one of the most ancient towns in the world. Situated on the top of a big hill, your first impression will be to be looking at a giant nativity scene. A labyrinth of old caves, houses, steps and beautiful churches Matera is divided into two main Sassos. And what is a Matera Sasso? A hill, rock or great stone!
The town centre is in Sasso Barisano and here you would find the best views looking down from the Piazza Duomo. The Duomo, the church of San Francesco di Assisi and the Monastero di Sant Agostino are some of the sites you can visit here.
In Sasso Caveoso you will find a rich archaeological area with a unique little rupestrian church, the Church of Santa Maria De Idris. This is a good place to start appreciating what Matera rupestrian art is all about, graphical or sculptural works left in hillsides, rocks or in the walls of caves/grottos.
From here walk all the way up to Piazza Giovanni Pascoli, an ideal spot for panoramic pictures. In this piazza you can have a rest after all those steps at the lovely Lanfranchi Caffe and walk along the very trendy Via Ridola. In this street you will find lots of artisan’s shops plus another original church, the Chiesa del Purgatorio, a great example of Italian baroque style with spooky death images in the façade
A must see when you visit Matera is the Crypt of Original Sin considered the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of the Rupestrian Art. As it is located 10 kms from Matera you will need a car or taxi to get to there. This is the most beautiful cave I’ve eve seen. For thirty minutes you will listen to your guide talking about its history and explaining frescos on the cave dating from the 9th century. As you will be seated on the floor make sure you wear comfortable shoes and a cardigan, it’s quite fresh even in summer.
Best places to eat and buy typical local products
On the way back to Matera you could stop at Dragone, few hundred meters from the cave, where you can try typical products and wines of Basilicata (email@example.com telf +39-0835-261740)
And on the food and wine subject there are a couple of restaurants worth mentioning: Osteria L’Arco (telf +39-0835-334626) and Osteria Pico ( telf +39-0835240424) both in Sasso Barisano. At the Osteria Pico you most try the pasta ‘fusilli ai peperoni cruschi’ a delicious vegetarian pasta dish with typical peppers of Basilicata, I wish I ordered two portions!
Matera was chosen European Capital City 2019 make sure you will visit before the crowds get there first. For more information about Matera you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org o visit www.infosassidimatera.com www.dicoverbasilicata.com