Destinations | Italy

Italy: two days in Matera (what to do and what to see)

27 April 2020

To end our vacation in Puglia on a different note, we decided to spend the last days in Matera, in Basilicata. This city is a totally which looks a bit like Jerusalem (at least what we believe Jerusalem to look like) was European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Matera is famous for its sassi, these habitats carved out of the rock and became famous thanks to a book by Carlo Levi, Christ stopped at Eboli. The book shed light on this town of Basilicata and the extremely poverty people lived in at the time. In the 50s, the government undertook to clean and sanitize this “national disgrace” that had one of the highest rate of infant mortality. Today, the city is clean, utterly charming and so particular that it has become a popular destination. We understand why …

You may have already had a glimpse of Matera if you watched Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of Christ and will also discover it soon in the next James Bond.

So what is there to see in Matera if you have little time? What to do around Matera? Where to eat and where to stay? In this article, we share our best addresses. If you try them out, we’d love to get your feedback. 




We really liked Matera and we are glad that we added this detour to our Puglia itinerary. One day and a half is more than enough to see the city and explore its surroundings. If we were to do it again, we wouldn’t stay more than that, as there isn’t that much to see or visit. That being said, we can’t stress enough how beautiful and particular this city is. It is truly breathtaking, specially around sunset.

Our hotel was as unusual as the city itself. We loved how authentic it was and our stay at La Grotta della Civita was an experience in itself. We stayed one night. It was both amazing and enough. The room was spectacular and we were extremely impressed by how well the hotel managed to preserve the authenticity of the place while providing a great level of comfort. Very well done indeed (more on that below). But, had we stayed for more than one night, we may have suffered a bit from the lack of light and the very “alternative” atmosphere.


What to do and what to see in Matera


Walk around the city


Our best piece of advice: get lost wandering in the streets of Matera. To enjoy Matera, you frankly don’t need to have a particular aim in mind. Open your eyes, walk, discover some cute little paths, turn right or left and enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire city…. You really can’t go wrong and the city is not that big. The cathedral is a nice stop but make sure you have something to cover yourself if you want to go in.  And it’s particularly beautiful when the sun starts going down.



Walking around and marveling at the city also works by night!




A guided tour of the sassi


Sure, those tours are a very touristic thing to do. And yet, that’s a must. especially if you want to have access to places that are otherwise closed to the public. The tour we did lasted half a day and I must say that it was very interesting. We enjoyed it.



Dine in a gastronomic restaurant, with a view


For a wonderful gastronomic experience in Matera, we highly recommend Dimora Ulmo. The menu is the chef’s own interpretation of the local classic dishes. We loved it. The wine list is also great. If you are there in the summer, make sure to have dinner on the terrace. It offers a gorgeous view of the city at night. An idyllic set up for a great dinner.



Head to the Belvedere for some amazing city views


Jump in your car and drive to the Belvedere for spectacular views of the city.




Drive around the Parco della Murgia Materana


Same road as the Belvedere. At the entrance of this natural park, make sure to stop at the information center to grab a map. That way you’ll be able to spot the little churches and sanctuaries that are carved in the rock.



What to do around Matera?


The Crypt of the Original Sin (Cripta del Peccato Originale) 


Just a short drive from Matera (12km) in the middle of the Dragone vineyards in Contrada Pietrapenta, the crypt is a pure treasure. Some even call it theSistine Chapel of rupestrian art. Remarkable frescoes from the 8th century await you. Definitely one of the most beautiful memory of our trip to Matera. If you have time, stop for a little wine tasting session on your way back. You won’t be sorry!



Santuary Santa Maria della Palomba


A very charming sanctuary. If you’re as lucky as we were, the priest may even give you a full tour.



Practical aspects


Where to stay


Le Grotte della Civita – Sextantio

If you like your hotel stay to be an experience in and out itself: look no further, we have found the right hotel for you! As you know by now, Matera is famous for its caves. So why not stay in a luxury hotel but in these caves? We were won over by this unique establishment, with undeniable charm and unparalleled views of the ravines of Matera? For one night, it was perfect. Just a bit of warning: not the best place if you are claustrophobic or can’t survive without natural light. That’s why, for us, one night was fun and great. More, we may have suffered from this lack of light. 




Driving in Matera


Check with your hotel as the city center is not accessible by car. Many establishments offer parking services.



Where to eat in Matera?


  • Dimora Ulmo (Via Pennino, 28). Gastronomic restaurant. Ask for a table on the terrace.
  • Enoteca dai Tosi (Via Bruno Buozzi) – Wine bar. Perfect for a quick bite.



Where to eat the best gelato in Matera?




Trip to Pouilles-Basilicata – August 2018

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