Matera: fairytale Italy
Mysterious, fairy-tale, magical and picture-perfect Matera is it all. Not for nothing did writers and filmmakers around the world become massively inspired by this place. For example, even The Passion of Christ was shot here. The city consists of a spider web of narrow alleys and centuries-old buildings. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in Italy we have ever visited.
The Sassi di matera, century-old cave dwellings
Sassi of Matera literally means the stones of Matera. The sassie are prehistoric cave dwellings. In the city you can find the sassi in two parts, Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano.
Matera was once the place where groups of monks sought refuge. In the rocks they made their homes. The material that came from the rocks was then used again to make the houses. When the Sassi officially came into existence is not entirely clear, but the dwellings were first found in a document from 1204.
The houses were still occupied for many years under deplorable conditions. Writer Carlo Levi even wrote a book about it “Cristo si è fermato a Eboli.” Consequently, it was once one of the poorest parts of Italy.
In 1993, the Sassi was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A lot has changed since then. Countless homes were transformed into beautiful hotel rooms, restaurants or stores.
Once considered the shame of Italy, the city is now a sought-after place to visit. Although locals have known how to find Matera for years, it is still relatively undiscovered for foreign tourists.
What to do in Matera
Stroll through the ancient streets of Matera
The best way to experience Matera is to take your time strolling through its streets. Stroll through the narrow alleys and discover the beautiful buildings, endless staircases and views. Many Sassi have been converted into restaurants, hotels or stores, but it is also still possible to admire a real Sassi home.
La Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario is a museum where you can see how peasant families used to live in Matera. They have a cave house here fully furnished.
Visit a viewpoint during sunrise or sunset
Matera is located in a gorge in the valley. This allows you to climb the surrounding mountains/hills in several places and enjoy spectacular views.
- Murgia Timone: here you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Sassi
- Piazza Duomo: this square is located on one of the highest points in Matera and offers spectacular views of the city, especially the Sasso Barisano.
- Piazza Pascoli: this square is one of the main access points to Matera’s old town. Piazza Pascoli has a balcony with an iconic, perfect view of the Sasso Caveoso.
Visit a Sassi Church
In Matera you will find hundreds of beautiful ancient churches. Many of these churches are carved out of the rock. Definitely a must-visit during your visit to Matera.
One of the most famous churches is San Pietro Barisano. The Santa Maria de Idris and San Santa Lucia Alle Malve are also worth visiting. If you want to visit more than one church, it is best to buy a combo ticket.
Also fun to do in Matera:
- Visit Il Parco della Murgia a beautiful natural area stretching across the ravine.
- Visit the Palombaro Lungo, an extraordinary water reservoir in the heart of the city. Ticket costs about 3 euros.
- Order a Tête cake (yes a cake that looks like a tit!)
Hotspots & food in
Best time to travel to Matera
Matera you can visit all year round. In high season it can be a bit busier, so should you have the chance we recommend skipping this period. The best travel time for Matera is May, June, September, October. By then, the biggest crowds will have passed and you can still enjoy glorious sunshine.
Transportation in Matera
There are several parking lots in the city where you can park your car. However, all parking spaces are paid and not cheap. It is also difficult to reach the city with an RV. We chose to book an RV site near the city. It even has its own shuttle service into town. Ideal, then.
The city itself is best explored on foot. Most of it is car-free, and with the city’s numerous staircases, it is also impossible to explore Matera by bike, for example.
Which budget do i need in Matera?
- Groceries: 10 euros per day
- Camping: 25 euros per night
- Dining out: 25 euros per day
We had a budget of 60 euros per day and you can get by just fine with that. Your budget obviously depends on your travel style. For example, we often take some drinks into town, go on picnics or eat lunch or dinner at the RV. It also makes a huge difference that we are in an RV, so the cost of lodging is often a bit lower.
- Budget Matera by own means of transport: 40 – 80 euros per day
- Budget Matera with accommodation in a Sassi house: 75 – 150 euros per day
Practical information about Matera
- Matera you can possibly visit within one day, but actually you will run out of time. Therefore, we recommend booking at least 2 nights (preferably) more.
- In Italy you are required to carry a muzzle, as dogs in public places are actually required to wear it. However, we have never spotted this during the 3 months we have been in Italy in total.
- For the nicest camping spots, we always use the app Park4night & camper contact
- The same obligations apply in the car as in the Netherlands. So bring safety jacket and warning triangle!
- In Italy, many stores, restaurants and supermarkets are often closed at noon.
- Download the Foreign Affairs app to stay up to date on the latest developments. Rules vary by region, so be sure to read up in advance.
What are nice places to stay in Matera?
For Matera, we have a very cool RV spot for you, namely at an old go-kart track. How cool! Don’t own a bus, camper or caravan? No worries! We have already collected for you the nicest accommodations of Matera.
Motorhome site Matera
Surely this is one of the most unique places we have stayed. In fact, just outside the city you will find an old go-kart track that has been transformed into a camper spot. Funny huh. Besides just being really cool to sleep at a go-kart track, the owner is really great. So you get super fun tips, a map and there’s even a free shuttle service into town. The RV spot is not very cheap, but we found it a very nice experience and therefore worth every penny.
You pay about 25 euros per night. DIt includes plumbing (also very good) and free shuttle service. Book here >>
How to get to Matera?
We visited Matera during our road trip through Italy from north to south. In fact, Matera can be perfectly combined with the region of Puglia.
From the Netherlands, it is about 2000 km drive and takes almost 20 hours. With an old camper, add some hours to that. Therefore, we fully understand that a road trip to Puglia is not for everyone. But lucky you, because you can also fly to Matera. The best options are to fly into Bari, Brindisi or Lecce and rent a car here to see more of Puglia. From the city of Bari, it is about an hour’s drive or 1.5 hours by train.
With Ryanair, you have a choice of the following flights:
- Eindhoven to Brindisi from 50 euros per flight
- Maastricht to Bari from 50 euros per flight
- Dusseldorf Weeze to Bari from €60 per flight