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Sightseeing in Matera - what to see. Complete travel guide

Built on a rocky outcrop, Matera is, perhaps, the most unusual town in Italy. Tourists can still see old buildings carved directly in the rock massif. The whole settlement looks so picturesque that no wonder why travelers from different countries come here to see these unusual houses with their own eyes. Nowadays, there are roughly one hundred and thirty different attractions in Matera. These are dwellings, temples, and ancient churches in the caves. Although the number of foreign guests in Matera is growing, many mainstream tourists are still not aware of this Italian settlement. Archaeologists love this old settlement that never stops surprising scientists.
Matera is an old town. The first settlement on the site of modern Matera existed yet in the Neolithic period. Already at that time, people tried to settle in the outcrop, making cave carved dwellings their homes. For a long time, Matera was a part of Magna Graecia with Civita being its center. When the Romans added this region to their empire, they protected the town’s territory with a wall and made even more dwellings in the caves. Soon, a whole new district called Sassi appeared in the rocky formations. The district continued growing as new dwellings were added to it.
Byzantine monks settled in Matera in the 8th century. They opened churches in the cave grottoes. Peasants also used these grottoes to make homes. Starting from 1623 and until the beginning of the 19th century, Matera was the capital of Basilicata. This period was the most productive and prosperous for the region. However, it was very hard for people of Matera to get water, and they had to build new and new canals. This is how this town got a new name – “the town of ditches”. Caverns in Sassi slowly turned into residencies for the poor because it was uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous to live in them. After World War II, the government finally decided to relocate the town’s population to modern housing. Copyright
Are you interested in sacred places? In this case, the beautiful cathedral building is the first attraction that you should see in Matera. Built on a high hill, this gorgeous shrine is a true gem of the central part of Sassi. This is the first Catholic shrine in the region. Every year, several thousand foreigners come to Matera to see this gorgeous architectural landmark. The construction of the cathedral started in the 40s of the 13th century and lasted almost forty years. The main purpose of the shrine’s builders was to make a cathedral that could be visible from any district of the city.
Besides the fact that the building stands on a hill, it has a significant height of sixty meters. If measuring the cathedral with its spire, the height is even more significant – ninety meters. This is a gorgeous example of the Romanesque style with the classic cross shape. For centuries, this was a residence of bishops, and because of this, the cathedral was in the center of various manipulations and arguments between Catholic priests. In modern days, medieval frescos and old paintings of saints are the main treasure of the beautiful cathedral. The image of Madonna is the most notable of them all.
Besides religious attractions, there are several interesting museums in Matera. Tourists usually enjoy visiting the Laboratory Museum of Rural Life that is also known as the Museum-workshop of the Peasant Culture. This is a very interesting place to visit for everyone who wants to learn more about the traditional lifestyle of the region. Currently, the museum has an area of roughly 500 square meters. Thematic halls of the museum are organized directly in the limestone caverns. During a visit to this establishment, visitors can see household items and work tools that inhabitants of Sassi used in different periods, starting from the Neolithic period and until the beginning of the 20th century. The collection is very interesting to observe. It is like making a journey back in time to the days when the town was only emerging.
In recent years, the museum has become reminiscent of an art laboratory, the main purpose of which is to study graphic material and different artworks. Besides this, visitors can see what jewelry was produced in Matera in the past, using such materials as ceramics, clay, and wood. Attend an interesting master class in this museum to learn the basics of ancient crafts and apply your newly acquired knowledge in practice. Every year, this museum hosts various scientific seminars and various cultural events.
Approximately sixty kilometers from Matera, in the city of Bari, there is an airport that serves flights from many countries of the world. From Bari, tourists can reach Matera by train – there are daily trains to the “cavern’ town, and the journey time is roughly one hour. Buses connect Matera to such Italian cities as Taranto, Metaponto, and towns in other nearby provinces. As a rule, these buses take passengers to the destination in one hour or one and a half hours. Besides this, tourists are always welcome to buy tickets to buses that depart from Milan, Ancona, Bologna, Chianciano, Fiuggi, Naples, Novara, and Parma.

City tours, excursions and tickets in Matera and surroundings

Reference information
Map of all castles
Survived castles around Matera
♥   Castle 'Castello Tramontano' Matera, 0.3 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   Castle 'Sassi Ruines' Sassi, 0.6 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   Castle 'Castello del Malconsiglio' Miglionico, 14.1 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   Castle 'Bernalda Castle' Bernalda, 30.1 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   Castle 'San Basilio Castle' Pisticci, 39.4 km from the center. On the map   Photo
Map of all parks
National and city parks around Matera
♥   National Park 'Parco nazionale dell’Alta Murgia' , 42 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   National Park 'Parco nazionale dell’Appennino Lucano-Val d’Agri-Lagonegrese' , 71.5 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   National Park 'Parco nazionale del Pollino' , 90.4 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   National Park 'Parco nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano' , 113.3 km from the center. On the map   Photo
♥   National Park 'Parco nazionale del Gargano' , 139.1 km from the center. On the map   Photo

Sights around Matera from our guide 'Extreme places on Earth'

Grotta Palazzese Restaurant

From the series “The Most Exotic Restaurants in the World”
The lime cave, one of the most famous restaurants on the planet, is 25 meters above sea level, so you can admire the impressive coastal panorama. The restaurant's menu will appeal to the gourmets who like seafood. Here you can taste the delicious Thai-style squid, as well as the grilled shrimp with garlic. The prices in the restaurant Grotta Palazzese are quite high. The average price for a court is more than 100 US dollars. … Read further


From the series “Nooks and Villages That Are More Colorful Than Top Touristic Destinations”
There are also attractive local restaurants, where numerous dishes are cooked following old recipes. Many experienced travelers tend to visit Alberobello on September, 27. This day, one of the most important national holidays, feast of the patron saints, Cosmas and Damian, takes place in town. Streets are always filled with music and fun. Alberobello hosts solemn processions, as well as exciting outdoor and gastronomic events. … Read further
Car rental on Rentals in Matera

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Sightseeing in regions nearby Matera

All about Matera, Italy - sightseeings, attractions, touristic spots, architecture, history, culture and cuisine. Prepare your trip together with - find out the 'must see' things in Matera, which places to visit, which excursions to take, where the breathtaking views are waiting for you. Planning your trip with this travel guide will help your to get the most out of Matera in few days. - online travel reservation expert providing reliable car rental and hotel booking services. We feature more than 25.000 destinations with 12.000 rental offices and 200.000 hotels worldwide.
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