Matera is a small city in the province of Matera and it has become a popular destination for tourists visiting southern Italy. Most people go to Matera as a day trip before going to the Amalfi Coast or Naples but staying in Matera for a couple of days is great if you really want to explore the ancient city.
If you plan on visiting Matera, we recommend staying in the city for 2 days. This way, you can explore the city without feeling rushed. You can visit Matera in just one day if your schedule is tight. But, make sure not to miss Matera if you are in southern Italy.
In this article, we will be talking about some of the things you can do in Matera. We will also talk about how you can get to Matera by different means of transportation. If you are ready to spend a day or two in an ancient city, read until the end!
Where Is Matera?
Matera is located in the Basilicata region in southern Italy and it is also the capital city of the province of Matera. Sassi di Matera was not a popular destination to begin with. It was once called the “shame of Italy” because of poverty. The caves of Matera were used to house poor and exploited workers in the city but the city slowly became more popular when it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Matera even became more popular after the film Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson was released in 2004. Matera also held the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2019 along with the city of Plovdiv in Bulgaria. The city of Mater used to be one of Italy’s best-kept secrets but it is now a popular destination among Europeans and non-Europeans alike.
How Many Days To Spend In Matera?
The city of Matera is not as big as other main tourist cities in Italy. A day trip to Matera is possible and you will be able to see what the city has to offer. However, if you don’t want to feel rushed and squeeze everything in just a couple of hours, spending 2 days or at least one night is recommended. If you are wondering if 2 days in Matera is enough time to visit, yes it is. You can definitely stay more than 2 days if you want to take a slower pace. But, 2 days is definitely enough to explore and enjoy this ancient city.
Things To Do In Matera
Explore The Sassi
Matera is the oldest city in Italy and Sassi di Matera is one of the ancient towns in Europe and the world. Sassi di Matera means “stones of Matera” and the Sassi has two districts – Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano.
Sasso Caveoso is where the Neolithic cave dwellings are located while Sasso Barisano is the oldest part of the city. You will also find most shops and restaurants in Sasso Barisano and the churches in Sasso Caveoso. If you need maps of the city, you can always go to the information office in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Matera’s main square.
The best way to explore the Sassi is by foot. If you do have a car, there are limited areas where residents are only allowed to park. If you are going to Matera by car, you need to park outside the main area and go to the city on foot. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear as you will encounter a lot of stairs and steep inclines as you explore the city.
There are also a lot of viewpoints in Matera that have stunning panoramic views of the Sassi. Some of the best viewpoints in Matera are Belvedere Luigi Guerricchio, Belvedere Giovanni Pascoli, and Belvedere Emilio Colombo.
Visit Matera’s Rock Churches And Religious Structures
Like Madera’s cave dwellings, most of the city’s churches are also carved into rocks. There are over 150 cave churches in Matera and these Rupestrian churches were carved during the middle ages.
One of the most famous Rupestrian churches in Matera is Santa Maria de Idris. This church sits on top of a hill and it has frescoes and sculptures depicting St. John the Baptist. Another church carved into rocks is San Pietro Barisano which was said to have been formed in the 12 to 13th centuries. Some of the other Rupestrian churches in Matera are Santa Lucia alle Malve and San Giovanni in Monterrone.
Not all churches in Matera are carved into rocks. San Pietro Caveoso is worth the visit as it sits on the edge of the ravine that separates the city from the ancient caves.
Check Out The Cave Dwellings
As we said earlier, you can find the cave dwellings where people used to live long ago. Some of these houses are open to the public and Matera has turned some of them into museums. Some of these cave houses were also turned into cafès, shops, and hotels.
Where To Stay In Matera
Sassi di Matera is known for being the city of stones and If you plan on staying in Matera for a couple of days, chances are you will get to stay in a cave dwelling that was turned into a cave hotel. Some of the more popular cave hotels are Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita, Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa, and the Caveoso Hotel. Aside from luxury hotels, there are also budget-friendly hotels and hostels if you are traveling on a budget.
How To Get To Matera
There are several ways to get to Matera depending on where in Italy (or outside of it) you are coming from. Let’s explore the transportation options if you plan to visit Matera.
There is no airport in the city of Matera but, there is an airport near the city. The nearest airport to Matera is Bari Airport in the Puglia region. Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport is an International airport and there are direct (non-stop) flights from European countries daily.
From the airport, you can either take public transportation or rent a car to go to Matera. If you plan on using public transportation, you can take the airport’s shuttle train to go to Bari Central Station. Once you get to Bari Central Station, buy a ticket going to Matera Centrale Railway Station. Do mind that the train station in Matera is about a 20-minute walk to the Sassi. You can either ride a taxi or go to the city on foot. There is also a direct bus from Bari Airport to Matera but you need to book bus tickets in advance.
Aside from Bari, you can also ride the train from other cities in Italy going to Matera. However, you have to take note that this will require several train transfers as there are no direct trains from most Italian cities to the Matera Centrale Station. If you are coming from Bari, the travel time by train takes about 2 hours to get to Matera Centrale. From the train station, you can ride a taxi to the Sassi or walk for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you have heavy luggage, taking a taxi might be the best option.
The best way to get to Matera is by car. It will be more convenient as you don’t have to worry about transfers and catching the correct train at the right time. If you have a lot of suitcases, having a car is a lifesaver as you won’t need to lug heavy suitcases around trying to get from one station to another. If you don’t want to drive, you can always book a private transfer from Bari Airport to Matera. This is a great option if you don’t want to worry about commuting and worrying about parking spaces. The drive from Bari to Matera only takes about an hour.
While a day trip to Matera is possible, spending at least 2 days in the city will let you enjoy the city better as it is such a beautiful city. You can take on a slower pace and have so much fun taking in the beauty of this ancient city. You can also stay in interesting hotels as some of the places you can stay in used to be a cave house.
Whether you are thinking of visiting Matera for one or two days, you will enjoy this picturesque town and its rich history. We hope this article enticed you to stay in Matera for a couple of days. If you have any questions, let us know via the contact form on our website.