Top 10 Things to See and Do in Matera, Basilicata

Photo of Francesca Masotti
16 January 2018

Matera is one of the most interesting and beautiful tourist destinations in Italy. Famous for its spectacular sassi and landscapes, Matera is a heartbreaking and fascinating town that everyone should include in their Italian trip. Read our list of the top 10 things to do and see in this amazing city.

Take Pictures of the Sassi

One of the most gorgeous things you can see in Matera while strolling through its fabulous city centre is the sassi, which literally mean ‘stones’. This traditional architecture is the reason why it has been included on UNESCO’s heritage list. Choose one of the several panoramic viewpoints and get ready to take a lot of pictures.

Matera | ©Jack78/Pixabay

Learn Something About the Ancient History Of the Town

Matera is one of the oldest inhabited settlements in the world. People have lived in the town since Paleolithic era. Life in Matera was not always easy; people used to live in the ancient sassi and considered them shameful, a symbol of poverty. Today, sassi are among the most beautiful architectural structures in the whole world and because of them and their uniqueness, Matera has also been declared the European Capital City of Culture for 2018.

Admire the Rupestrian Churches

Matera, and the surrounding archaeological park of Murgia Materana, are home to more than 100 churches, which host exceptional decorations and works of art. Don’t be surprised if you see Greek-Orthodox churches built near Roman-Latin temples; here, it’s totally normal and if you have time, we suggest you visit as many churches as you can.

The Old Rupestrian Church of San Luca alla Selva | ©Actaris41/WikiCommons

Visit Casa Grotta of Vico Solitario

One of the oldest houses of Matera is Casa Grotta. Here visitors can see how people used to live in the caves in the 18th century. Casa Grotta was the home of a large family and several kinds of animals, such as pigs, chickens and mules who lived together in the tiny cave.

Casa Grotta | ©Palickap/WikiCommons

Be Amazed by Palombaro Lungo

Palombaro Lungo is one of the highlights of Matera. It is the largest underground water cistern of the town, built in 1864. Today it’s visible to tourists, so be sure not to miss this amazing place during your tour.

Visit Matera’s Cathedral

On the top of the Civitas hill, you can locate the town cathedral, a beautiful church dating back to the 13th century. It’s totally worth a visit, not only for its majesty, but also because it offers an amazing view of the Sasso Barisano, one of the most stunning areas of Matera.

The Cathedral of Matera | ©Berthold Werner/WikiCommons

Admire Art at MUSMA

MUSMA, Museum of Contemporary Sculptures of Matera, is maybe the most important museum of the town. It’s situated inside the 16th-century Palazzo Pomarici, in the heart of the sassi.

Spend the Night in a Boutique Hotel Built Inside a Cave

The most romantic thing to do in Matera is to book a hotel room in the sassi. After the renovation of most of the buildings of the town, the owners of them built art galleries, restaurant and amazing hotels inside the old caves. So, choose one of them and get ready to live one of the coolest experiences of your life.

The Narrow Streets of Matera | ©chatst2/Pixabay

Enjoy Traditional Food

Like every other Italian destination, Matera will not disappoint you when it comes to food. Here, chefs use fresh seasonal vegetables and products to create excellent dishes, such as orecchiette pasta (like in the neighbouring town of Puglia) with chicory and fava bean puree or cavatelli pasta with caciocavallo cheese.

Homemade Orecchiette | ©Giuseppe Masili/Flickr

Watch The Passion of the Christ While in Town

Did you know that Mel Gibson chose Matera as the location for his movie The Passion of the Christ? Well, if you travel to Matera, you need to watch it before, or you can do that in one of the open-air cinemas of the town in the summertime.