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Planning a visit to the “The City Of Rocks” – Matera in Italy? Let’s take a look at the most unmissable things to do in Matera, Italy. It is one of those places in Italy that you can’t help but fall in love with.
Matera has been that archived page of history that has lost and regained its significance time and time again. Allegedly made by Romans, Matera has a history of over thousands of years. And, just like Rome, it was about to be bygone but the Italian government through their labour has not only preserved it but has made it a renowned travel destination in Italy.
A place that was never on the bucket list of the tourists gradually became a traveller favourite around the globe. A city so ancient and once lost got re-established and is now a magical place filled with culture, art and music. Below are the ten reasons why you must visit this city at least once because the experience would be quintessential.
Whether you have got a weekend or a day, here are the best things to do in Matera, plus some useful information regarding accommodation and best time to visit, to help you plan better. So lets get started;
Things To Do In Matera
1. A Stroll On The Streets Of Sassi
The streets of Sassi divides Matera into two districts but doesn’t lack behind in telling the tales of the Paleolithic heritage of the region through time. History tells that there were caves in this part of the Rocky Mountains which were cut into more hospitable places to live by the regionals. However, they too left the city later and came back only in the ’90s when the European government invited them to live in the same place only to convert the ghost town into a more habitable place.
A walk through these streets is a must which has over 7000 years of history. The city has stood there to tell the tales of its bravery and how it has risen like a phoenix. It is a must for some motivational kicks.
2. Stay In A Cave Hotel
When we think about living in a cave, we just presume that we would abandon all the modern luxury facilities to live a life in natural rocky caves. But in Matera, you will find the perfect amalgamation of the caves with luxurious facilities that you get at a five-star hotel anywhere else in the world. These lush hotels are way more comfortable and cosier than you can imagine. The small rooms with fine Italian linen and dim lighting are ingredients for an exquisite stay.
Fine dining would also be provided to you in the same opulent environment. Natural water bodies, caves and lakes are prominent around the globe. However, in these man-made hotels, a hot Jacuzzi with a limestone rooftop is a rare acquaintance.
Palazzo Gattini is one of the best cave hotels in Matera.
3. Take A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Matera
One of the first things you should strike of your to do list in Matera is a hot air balloon ride over the city. Prepare yourself to be spell-bounded by the stunning landscapes of Matera. Go on a hot air balloon ride and embark onto a once in a lifetime journey over this ancient city. This experience will also be one of the most memorable things to do in Matera for you.
4. A Tour Of Matera Through Tuk-Tuk
If you are planning to cheat on the stairs of Matera and rather hang out on the straight roads of the city among the city’s fun and frolics then the TUK-TUK tour is a must for you. On this exclusive tour, you can book an e-rickshaw even before your visit and visit the famous places of Matera, Italy. The TUK- TUK tours are visitors’ favourites when they visit here.
These can be guided and non-guided ranging from 40 minutes to 2 hours in total. But your TUK-TUK driver will make sure that they make you visit all the significant places in the main regions of Matera where the vehicle can go. Another significant advantage that this ride can bring is the exploration of the native people and regional culture which must not be missed by anyone who visits here. After all, the soul of a place lives in its practising culture. This TUK-TUK ride is definitely one of the fun things to do in Matera.
5. Get Lost In The Curves Of Palombaro
What once was a great water source for an entire city are just a few caves left at Matera. But the last sentence falls short on the appreciation of Palombaro and how magnificently Italian ancestors managed to garner water sources on top of the mountain. The water was from the oldest source of this region. The entrance, the architecture and the engineering of this well-shaped miracle are jaw-dropping. It was a fully functioning cistern until the 19th century and might have water at certain parts of it even today.
Though there are guides available at all times to give you an enlightening tour around the structure. But these guides would only speak Italian. The English-speaking guided tours are available at certain periods which are at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 03:30 pm and 05:30 pm. These tours are for approximately 25 minutes. The guides are extremely passionate when they talk about history and can answer any question that pops up in your head.
6. Meditate At The Matera Cathedral
Just like the city, the Cathedral of Matera has had a fair share of destruction and construction through the years. Though the outside church has remained untouched and the beauty of the church has remained intact. The insides of the church have been renovated time and time again by the government and have recently been restored by adding a false ceiling only to enhance the beauty of the church. The false wooden ceiling has been decorated by three paintings from the artist Battista Santoro himself.
The church has been dedicated to Virgin Mary, but you will find many other biblical references and angels like Archangel Michael himself, protecting the walls of the church throughout the cathedral.
7. Admire The Frescoes Of Matera Rock Churches
Exploring the rock churches is one of the incredible things to do in Matera. The Matera Cathedral may snatch the limelight after the restoration of its inner ceilings but the Matera Rock Churches are the place that has stood the test of time and has remained gorgeous as ever. The secret of their formidable beauty is the frescoes on the walls of the caves in which these churches are built. These are not just the churches but a group of houses, churches, monasteries and hermitages built in the caves of Murgia.
Together they are called The Sassi and the Park of Rupestrian Churches. A few churches which need honourable mentions because they need your attention here are Santa Maria de Ibris, Santa Lucia alle Malve and San Pietro Barisano.
8. Wandering In The Past : Museums Of Matera
When the government of Matera restored the city for its new citizens as well as for tourists and visitors, they had to take a huge responsibility to save the history cloaked in this city for thousands of years. Some pieces might have just got damped under rocks and inside caves. But their initiatives gave birth to several Museums around the region which became a true source of knowledge and enlightenment about the different kingdoms which were once a part of this land and the people who inhabited them.
The National Modern and Medieval Arts Museum is one of the most significant museums of the region showcasing sacred art paintings and ancient mosaics along with the National Archaeological Museum where you will find artefacts of the Neolithic era. Sassi in Miniatura is a tiny version of the city along with the Museum of Contemporary Architecture.
9. Italian Food With An Exclusive Touch Of Matera
The stroll around the city may leave you famished and parched. But you need not worry as the city of Matera prides itself in serving ancient and regional delicacies which may not be found anywhere in the entire Italy. If you wish to ditch your hotel food for one night you may find lip-smacking cuisines at L’Abbondanza Lucana, a restaurant famous for its cuisines. Baccanti and Vitantonio Lombardo Ristorante are other stops where you can have food rich in taste.
When it comes to fine wine Baccanti offers some aged ones with your meal. But if you want to wrap your fingers around a glass of wine and swoon on the Sassi breeze then you should visit Enoteca Dai Tosi. Though it is a bar inside a cave, the ambience won’t let you feel dull for a moment. Instead, you would be prompted to socialize.
10. Enjoy The Matera Sunset
The nightlife of Matera has a lot to offer. The sight of lit houses and streets as they make a garland from the bottom of the mountain to the top becomes an unforgettable sight. However, just before the sunsets, the sun finds its way somewhere hiding from your sight for the night. There would be a period of twilight and if you find yourself visiting during the rainy seasons you would not be able to resist gazing at the skies. The colours and the patterns in the Matera sky are unmissable. Enjoying a sunset over the city is one of the most unmissable things to do in Matera for sure!
The golden hour of the sunset mixed with the yellow lights of the city makes for one memorable moment. And if you find yourself visiting Matera during the winter months, a snow shower might visit you, but only if you are lucky.
Know Before You Go : Things To Do In Matera
Where To Stay In Matera, Italy?
When you are looking for a place to stay in Matera, you should consider the Sassi di Matera area which offers you an opportunity of staying in cave hotels that date back to the 17th century. It is also the heart of this historic city and has almost all the major attractions that you look forward to visiting. Below are some cave hotels that we found worth mentioning;
Budget-Friendly (upto € 50) : La Casa di Gianni is a favourite amongst travelers for its beautiful rooms, central location and fantastic views. Plus it is a very pocket friendly option to stay in Matera. Facilities include free WiFi, free parking, spacious family rooms and comforting room amenities. Click here to book this hotel or to check its availability.
Mid Range (€ 50 – € 100) : Fra I Sassi Residence is a centrally located property set in restored 17th-century buildings inside the Matera Sassi UNESCO site area. Rooms are spacious, beautifully decorated, cosy, family friendly and boasts amazing views of the historic center. Free WiFi, an on site bar, hearty breakfast and sun terrace are some of the other facilities provides by the hotel. Click here to book this hotel or to check its availability.
Luxury (€ 100+) : Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel is a totally splurge worthy hotel in Matera. The rooms are unique, elegantly decorated, cosy, comfortable, soundproof and filled with modern luxuries. The interiors of the hotel reflects ancient times and makes your stay much more memorable. The Spa and wellness center in the hotel features Turkish bath, sensory showers, hot tub and a relaxation area with herbal teas. Other facilities include free WiFi, a swimming pool, on site restaurant and bar. Babysitting services too are available for convenience. Click here to book this hotel or to check its availability.
Best Time To Visit Matera, Italy
Matera is located in Southern Italy. Though it is an all year round destination, the best time to visit this ancient city is from May till November. During these months the weather is warm and pleasant.
So, these were the best things to do in Matera that will make your vacation fun and exciting. This UNESCO World Heritage Site will surely leave in fascinated through its rich history and landscape. Have you been to Matera before? Let us know what is your favourite thing to do here if you have, in the comments section below. Happy Travels!