Even though Matera isn’t officially part of Puglia (it’s part of the province Basilicata), many add it to their Puglia road trip and so did we. Moreover, I’m actually very glad we did! Matera is a stunning city completely build of stone with a very rich history. The city has been through some bad and challenging times, but fortunately is in a way better place. This Matera City Guide describes what we did and highlights my recommendations for visiting Matera.
Matera is a city that consists out of 2 different ancient parts (and as you know, in most cities the Old Town is most stunning) called Sasso. In the Sassi, you’ll find many caves that could be houses, but after the tough history, many have been turned into beautiful cave hotels and restaurants. Currently, Matera is also an Unesco Heritage Site.
Enough said.- let’s start!
As mentioned before, the history of Matera is quite tough. Back in the 50’s, Matera was seen as the shame of Italy, with houses that would most of the time not have water or electricity. Next to that, the mortality rate was high and overall seen, the health conditions in the city were really bad.
To admire the city as it is now, I really liked to know a little bit about it’s history (and I’m usually not the type of traveler visiting a museum). Therefore, I would honestly recommend visiting Casa Noha as soon as you can after your arrival, as it will really enlighten the rest of your stay. Make sure to make a reservation in high season, as viewings can sold out quite quickly.
To manage expectations, in Casa Noah, you’ll see a movie that explains you the full history of Matera.
Matera is full of view points, and this one is located closest to the point where you are entering the area near the Sassi.
This Saint Francesco Church is stunning! When we visited, the square in front was almost empty and we had the perfect opportunity to admire this great building.
Piazza G. Pascoli can be seen as one of the main squares in town and is home to Palazzo Lanfranchi. Near this square, you’ll also find quite some great places to eat and around the corner you’ll find number 5 of this list.
Located around the corner of the Piazza Giovanni Pascoli, you’ll find the view point – named after the square. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful viewpoint of Matera and so think many others. Definitely make some time to visit during the day and night, as the views are stunning during both.
One of my favourite places for a picture, so definitely worth sharing. This little alley can be found when you navigate to the Via Duomo. Can’t be missed!
The cathedral of Matera should be part of this list! The cathedral itself is beautiful, but there is also a view point located in front of the cathedral that’s also worth admiring.
Closely (2,5 hour drive) located to Matera, you’ll find the beautiful city Lecce. There is plenty of stuff to do and there are many lovely bars and restaurants to enjoy your time in the city and it’s surroundings even more.
Check out the full Lecce guide here as well as the food & drink guide to Lecce.
The second day in Matera, we mainly spend on discovering Sassi Caveoso. To be honest, this might be my favourite city as it felt more lively and has many stunning corners and alleys.
Via Bruno Buozzi is home to several restaurants, ice cream stalls and terraces. Looking for some well deserved rest after making your way up and down through the city.
Unfortunately, this is something we didn’t do. But – definitely cross over to the Murgia viewpoint to overlook the city. You can hike, but it is also possible to drive there if you want to save yourself the work-out in the temperatures that can be quite high in summer.
Another church, this time located in Sasso Caveoso. We haven’t visited the inside of the churches, but just enjoying the architecture is already great.
The final ‘to do’ tip of this Matera City Guide is to just stroll around and discover. There are so many small alleys and you might discover something new around every corner. We’ve enjoyed wandering through the city and sometimes not even realizing or recognizing a certain point on whether we’ve been there or not or were on earth on the map we were. Just take your time and take it all in!
The most popular bar in Matera and my personal favourite. Definitely pay a visit to Area 8 in the evening to enjoy a cocktail and the great summer vibes.
A great place for your Italian food located in Sasso Caveoso. Enjoy a fancy pasta and don’t forget to enjoy an elaborate dessert!
We sat down at Ridola for lunch, located near Piazza G. Pascoli. We enjoyed some gnocchi, melanzane and a salad. The wine on the table (greco) was also great!
A place that’s not that famous or popular, but we loved the simple vibe of the terrace, serving some great wines and getting your small snacks refilled a lot. Perfect place to read a book while watching the night fall.
And of course, there is more to mention in this Matera City Guide. In the two days enjoying Matera, we haven’t been able to visit all the places that got recommended to us, also because some of the places were closed. Looking for more inspiration, definitely have a look at for example Enoteca Dai Tosi, Ristorante Soul Kitchen, 5 Lire, Mosto and L’Antica Credenza.
One of the most popular ways to spend the night and to stay in Matera is in one of the cave houses and cave hotels. However, we decided to go with a cheaper option that was also great.
We stayed in a place called Cozy House Matera, a small appartement where we could stay with the 3 of use. It had a small kitchen, a separate bed room and was located on a 15 minute walk from the city center. Interested? You can find it here.