Visit Matera in Italy: The Magical City of Stone

visit matera in italy

Where Is Matera?

Matera, also known as the “City of Stone“, is located in the Southern Part of Italy, in the Region of Basilicata.

The city, until a few decades ago one of the poorest areas in Italy, has seen in recent years a surge in popularity that brought it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and to be elected European Capital of Culture in 2019.


Content Summary

Matera is one of the oldest human settlements on Earth (second only to Petra, Jordan), as it is estimated that humans started carving their dwellings in the stones in the paleolithic era (around 15.000 BC) and since the bronze age the city has always been continuously inhabited. 

During its long history, the city lived moments of wealth and moments of extreme poverty, as in the last century, when it was addressed as the “Shame of Italy” due to the shaming living conditions its inhabitants had to endure after the war.

During my recent magic trip to Matera, I found a reborn city of jaw-dropping beauty, oriented to tourism, linked to traditions, and nevertheless proud of its history.

Seen through my eyes, I can say that Matera truly is a piece of art, a city to enjoy slowly and, without any doubt,  one of the best cities in Italy. If you’re looking for a romantic destination, a jump in the past, or just an out-of-the-ordinary getaway, Matera is the right place for you.

Following, I wrote a comprehensive guide with all the information you will ever need to plan a visit to the city and enjoy it to the fullest. Enjoy and Benvenuto in Italy! 🙂


Matera in italy – tHE Complete Guide


1.  Quick Facts About Matera

2. How to Get to Matera

3. What to See and Do in Matera

4. How is the Weather in Matera

5. The Best Period to Visit Matera

6. How to Move around Matera

7. Where to Eat in Matera

8. Attractions Costs

9. Trekking Trails near Matera

10. The Best Hotels in Caves

11. Camping near Matera

12. Tips for Visiting Matera

13. Places to See near Matera



1. Quick Facts about Matera

Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993 and today a blooming destination rapidly surging in popularity.

Visited mainly by Italian tourists, in recent years the city started sparkling the interest also of international visitors thanks to the popular photos of its Sassi: distinctive neighborhoods composed of stone dwellings and countless twisted alleys immersed in the incredible Mediterranean scenery surrounding the area.

Country Italy
Region Basilicata
Founding Date 15.000 B.C.
Coordinates 40°40′N 16°36′E
Elevation 401 m.s.l.
Population 60.411
City Motto "The tired ox sinks the step more firmly"
UNESCO Site YES (since 1993)
Closest Airport Bari (BRI)

2. How to Get to Matera?

Being located in Southern Italy, Matera is far from major international airports. If you plan to visit the city (which can take one very-full day or 2-3 days to savor it more), I would then suggest you insert it in a longer South-Italy itinerary touching also the splendid nearby attractions about which we will talk later about.

In the map below, you can find the location of Matera in comparison to nearby airports and attractions. The city is reachable by train or buses, although the faster way to reach it (as with most hotspots in Southern Italy) remains with a private vehicle.


2.1 Reaching matera from the Nearest Airport


The closest International Airport to Matera is Bari (BRI), which is only 65km away from the city and from which you can either rent a car or take the public transport to the city of stone.

These are the driving times and distances between Matera and the nearest airports:

  • Bari (BRI), 65km, 45 minutes
  • Brindisi (BDS), 145km, 1 hour 45 minutes 
  • Naples (NAP), 250km, 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Lamezia Terme (SUF), 267km, 3 hours
  • Roma (FCO) 468km, 5 hours


2.2 Reaching Lake Braies by Car


Although most local roads in the regions of Basilicata and Puglia are bumpy and potentially full of potholes, the main connecting highways are fast, modern and free. If you’re planning to visit other places nearby Matera I would strongly suggest you to rent a car as it will give you the maximal freedom. 

If you’re visiting only Matera, then you won’t need a car as within the old town you’ll be visiting they are not allowed to circulate.

2.4 Reaching MATERA by Public Transport



If you arrived in Bari by plane, you’ll be happy to know that there are trains that connect directly to Matera at a price ranging between 6-10 Euro.

If you’re coming from other directions, be sure to check trains availability from your location on the Trenitalia Railways Website (official Italian Railways). You can easily buy tickets online or simply at the closest station.

Keep in mind that trains in Italy are not always on time, as most things in Italy anyway 🙂



Matera is well connected to other Italian locations by various Bus Companies. If you’re coming from afar, I suggest you to check out long-haul buses from Flixbus or MarinoBus, cheapest companies to travel Italy by Public Transport, generally on time, that offer great comfort and quality (Wi-Fi included!).

If you’re already in the region, regional bus companies may offer better deals to reach Matera. In this case, I suggest you to check Omio to compare all the viable alternatives.

In general, buses are cheaper than trains, offer better service and are usually on time.

3. What to See and Do in Matera, Italy?

sasso baresano

Jump back in time, discover a part of the rich Italian history, enjoy the welcoming weather and the rhythm of slow food and slow life. Matera is a place to explore and discover: there’s not a single route, but hundreds of gnarled tiny streets, staircases, tunnels and spectacular viewpoints.

Following I list for you the Best Things to Do in Matera. If you’re short of time or you’re travelling with wheelchairs/strollers, you may want to follow the main walking paths that go through the main attractions of Matera and avoid ripid staircases.

Here is a the Official Map of Matera for you to download, which includes all the trails, panoramic viewpoints, churches and points of interest.



sasso barisano matera

Coming from the North, the Sasso Barisano neighborhood is the first part of the old town you’ll walk into. Here there are fewer caves as most of them have been (re)covered with newer but still extremely picturesque houses.

In this part of the town, the main highlights you should visit are the town’s largest rock church of S.Pietro Barisano, Piazza Vittorio Veneto, and the Monastery of S. Agostino.

The best way to visit the Barisano district (as for Matera in general) is to get lost in its intricate maze of alleys, up and down staircases, rustic squares, terraces, and tiny balconies. The more you get lost, the more you’re going to discover the beauty of this town and its suggestive hidden details.  


Sasso Caveoso is the Southern neighborhood of Matera and the more rustic and unrefined part of the old hamlet. Here, cave dwellings are still very well visible and it is possible to visit houses as they were in the ’50s, to understand the history and struggle the citizens had to endure.

The main attractions in Sasso Caveoso are surely the rocky churches carves in stone: Church of Madonna de Idris , Church of San Giovanni in Monterrone and Santa Lucia alle Malve Church. 

In addition to those, the Fountain of Love is a romantic attraction you surely don’t want to miss, where human-sized bronze statues portray a love scene, surrounded by the breath-taking image of Sasso Caveoso in the background.


3.3 Visit the Top of the Hill: Civita

The Civita is the acropolis of Matera, standing on top of the hill surrounded by the two Sassi Districts and the ravine of Gravina. This quartier, strongly fortified during the middle ages, has been for centuries the political and religious center of Matera.

In this area, you will find the most renowned buildings of Matera, including the imposing Romanesque Cathedral and the towers Torre Metellana and Torre Quadra. From Civita, there are wonderful excellent viewpoints of both Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso.

As I was walking through Civita, I found myself stopping every 20 steps as something worth photographing was popping in front of me, truly a place full of surprises.

3.4 Discover the history of Matera at CASA NOha

Casa Noha is the must-see place to truly LIVE the history of Matera and understand how the town came to be what it is today

Casa Noha is a tiny home located within Civita, that offers a 45-minutes immersive journey into the life of Matera through a variety of video-documentaries.

The tour narrates the glorious past of the dwellings and how they became world-famous in the last two decades, but also the dark times the city lived in the last centuries, where hunger, malaria, and the absence of modern water systems killed thousands until the point the city was named by the Italian’s first minister of the time as the “Shame of Italy”.

The ticket entrance is 6 Euro and it’s better to get there early to reserve your spot (projections start every 30-45 minutes and every round fits a small group of 20-25 people). While waiting for your time, you can always tour around Civita later or enjoy an aperitif in the countless rustic bars nearby. More information on the Casa Noha Official Website.


3.5 Take Amazing Photos of matera

matera sunset by night

Matera saw its reputation rising in recent years thanks to movies (such as Benhur (2016), the Passion of Christ (2004), and Wonderwan (2017), just to cite a few) that got it the appellative of “second Jerusalem”. Photographers, fascinated by its rocky dwellings, gnarled alleys, and rustic Italian sceneries started flowing to the city too and so the city’s popularity started to grow.

Indeed, if you love photography, walking fast on the streets of Matera will be impossible for you: the whole town is just too gorgeous, with glimpses of art behind all corners.

The following are, in my opinion, the best spots for taking pictures in Matera:

  • Belvedere Guerricchio – Tre Archi (full view of Sasso Barisano)

  • The Cathedral’s Terrace (photo above, Sasso Barisano from the Cathedral)

  • Piazza S.Pietro Caveoso (perfect to see the whole Sasso Caveoso from bottom-up)

  • Piazzetta Pascoli (full view of Sasso Caveoso from above)

  • Fountain of Love (located on one of the most suggestive alleys between Civita and Sasso Caveoso)

3.6 Other Attractions

musma museum art matera

In addition to the previous things to do, I thought of leaving you here a list of extra experiences available in Matera that, depending on your personal interests, you may want to check out:

  • Hypogeum Materasum – a tour inthe underground city of Matera to learn its history, booking online is suggested. It is possible to either join toured groups or get an audioguide (30 minutes, Entrance 5Euro)

  • Casa grotta di Vico Solitario – a traditional dwelling in the Sassi, fully restored and furnished as it was centuries ago (Entrance – 3Euro) 

  • Palombaro Lungo – an underground journey into the ancient acqueduct of Matera and the engineering feats of the old ages

  • Moom Museum of Olive Olive –  why Italian olive oil is so renowned in the world? This museums explains the traditional process to create this precious culinary product and all its secrets.

4. How is the Weather in Matera?

Matera enjoys a Mediterranean climate, characterized by welcoming temperatures and low rainfalls. Being in Europe, the warmest month is July, where temperature can scratch the 40°C (104° F) and the coldest is January when temperatures on average stay below 10°C (50° F).

In winter (November – February) many touristic restaurant/bars close as the climate become coldish, rain more common, and fewer people tend to visit the city. Snow is extremely rare, but those few times it comes, Matera becomes an unbelievable sight.

You can check the current weather in Matera here:

Matera Weather Forecast

5. Best Period to Visit Matera in Italy?

Although the whole period May-October is excellent for visiting, in my opinion, the best months to visit Matera are May, June, and September as they have the most enjoyable climate (not too hot neither cold) and longer days.

November to February are the colder months, days are shorter, colder, and fewer tourists come to the city. Prices of course get better too, but you may not enjoy the countless city’s bar and terraces as you would in summer. Overall, if you are flexible, I would suggest you visit during those months.


6. How to Move around Matera?

Matera is a fun city to walk. With its narrow alleys, rustic stairs, terraces, and balconies, your feet are all you need to visit the city and get the best experience out of it.

If you cannot walk long distances, within the city there are gracious ape-car taxis that will bring you around the whole city for about 20-25 Euro.


7. Where to Eat in Matera

Regia Corte - Restaurant & Lounge Terrace

For dining in Matera, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Countless are the rustic and characteristic local restaurants covering the most strange and evocative corners of the city of stone. Compared to most regions in Italy, prices are low, and while food quality and local cuisine remain top-notch for all tastes.

Following are some restaurants in Matera you should definitely check out:

Regia Corte – (Stylish Restaurant & Lounge Terrace with fantastic views of the Sassi)

Baccanti Ristorante – (Traditional Food in an Incredible cave location)

Bollicine Bistrot – (Traditional Food revisited through modern eyes)

Girotondo Pizzeria – (The best Pizza in Matera, at an excellent price)

A special mention goes to the best aperitif terrace to watch the sunset over the Sassi, the spectacular location of Quarry Resort‘s lounge terrace. Enjoying a Gin Tonic after a long day of walking, as the sun was going down, it was definitely one of the best experiences we had in Matera.

8. How much it Costs to Visit Matera

Matera, as the whole Basilicata region, is fairly well-priced compared to the Italian average. Most things to do and see are free, and the few that require an entry ticket (Casa Noha, some churches) are relatively cheap. Gelaterias and restaurants tend to offer abundant portions (as it is common in Southern Italy) for affordable prices.

Here are a few orientative prices to give you an idea:


  • Parking for the whole day in a central location – 2.40 Euro
  • 2-people Complete Meal in an average restaurant – 25 Euro
  • Hotel/Airbnb Double Room – starting at 50 Euro/night
  • Cave Hotel Double Room – starting at 90 Euro/night, up to over 250Euro/night for suites
  • Guided Tours of the Whole City – 30-40 Euro/person
  • Ape Taxi Tour – 20-25 Euro

9. Hiking Trails near Matera

trekking hiking near matera

If you like hiking, you’ll find plenty of trails you will enjoy in the outskirts of Matera and the surrounding area.

On this website, you can have a complete view of all available trails nearby, while here under, I resumed for the most evocative trails leaving directly from the city with the walking time and distance to cover them:

Note: numbers refer to total distance and walking time for the round-trip (going and coming back to the starting point).

10. The Best Hotels in Caves

hotel di Pietra matera

Matera surely offers accommodation for all budgets. The Airbnb scene is developing rapidly but, although being a competitive option on price, still cannot offer the once-in-lifetime experience that the unique boutique cave-hotels of Matera can offer.


Here are the most gorgeous cave hotels in the city:

  • L’Hotel in Pietra (in photo): If you’re in for the splurge, starting at 100Euro/double room and getting up to 290/suite, the Hotel di Pietra is the ultimate romantic experience in the Sassi of Matera, for a holiday to remember.
  • Antico Convicino Rooms Suites & Spalocated in the Civita center and build in a 16th-century building, offers a great cave experience with Spa in a convenient location for any day-trip, perfect if you’re visiting in colder times.
  • Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civiltà: Sleep in history. This boutique hotel offers a unique approach to accommodation in Matera: original 13th-century caves and masonry arranged with traditional revisited design, a mix of luxury and tradition that will remain with you for a lifetime.


As demand for cave accommodation has been growing rapidly in recent years, also did prices. If you’re planning on staying in one, I would advise you to reserve ahead of time.


11. Camping near Matera in Italy

camper parking near matera

If you’re visiting with a camper or RV, you’ll be glad to know that in the proximity of Matera there are several modern and welcoming campgrounds for you to park and enjoy your time.

These are the ones with a greater quality/price deal:

  • Kartodromo Della Palomba: clean and organized camping run by extremely welcoming owners, just at 5 minutes drive from the center of Matera, they offer a free shuttle to the city and back.
  • Area Sosta Camper Kartodromo: family-run full-serviced camping with excellent service, also offers a shuttle to the city center as well as all the services you might need
  • Area Camper Matera: another great Camper parking area just a few minutes from the city center, also includes a shuttle to the city.

All the previous camping areas provide wide spaces, water, and electricity as well as helping owners. Prices range through the year between 12-20Euro/night.

All in all, Matera is a welcoming place for RV.


12. Tips for Visiting Matera

As we are approaching the end, I want to leave you some personal tips to visit Matera to help you make the best out of this magical experience:


  • Make sure the battery of your phone/camera is fully charged. The town is incredible and you’ll want to take hundreds of photos at every corner!
  • Have a bottle of water always with you and suncream. Matera can get very hot in summer, and all the ups and downs of its street will challenge your fitness condition, better always be well hydrated.
  • Take your time to enjoy the slow life, plan at least a full-day visit to enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage site. For the full experience, I would suggest two full days, with a night in a cave hotel.
  • Take a stroll of the Sassi also by both day and night! The two faces of Matera are equally beautiful, photo-worthy, and awe-inspiring.
  • Visit Casa Noha or get a tour guide for a couple of hours. Trust me on this: one thing is just seeing the city as a tourist, and another one is living it after knowing its dramatic history. Getting to know what Matera went through, will make you appreciate even more the marvel you see today.
  • Enjoy local slow-food and have an aperitif (or two! ;)) in a lounge bar’s terrace during the sunset.


13. Places to See Near Matera in Italy

Southern Italy is exceedingly pretty and often it does not get the recognition it deserves compared to the central and northern parts of the Italian boot peninsula.

If you’re planning to visit Matera, I strongly suggest you involve other nearby destinations in your itinerary. Here is a list of the most iconic and hidden that I am sure you will love.

Attractions near Matera with driving times:

  • Altamura the “City of Bread” – 25 minutes – famed for its huge traditional bread (on average, 1 loaf weighs around 1kg!) and its cathedral, Altamura is a lively town with strong Southern-Italian vibes, definitely worth a half-day trip.

  • The “White City” of Ostuni – 1 hour 45 minutes – situated in the gorgeous Apulia region, this city is famous for its photogenic white-painted houses and historical buildings.
  • Gallipoli and the “Maldives of Salento” – 2 hours 40 minutes – Gallipoli is a roman city with two millennia of history. Today, it is famous for its incredible crystal sea, its excellent seafood restaurants, and its vibrant night-life.
  • The UNESCO Site of Alberobello – 1 hour 10 minutes – A village made of a small round stone house with a conical roof: the famous “Trulli”.
  • Otranto Sea-side Town – 2 hours 40 minutes – Otranto is an historical charming city on the Adriatic Coast of Italy with an enchanting dock and an astonishing blue sea.
  • Naples “The Most Beautiful City in the World” – 3 hours 30 minutes – A bit further away from Matera, Naples does not need introductions: with the Vesuvio Vulcan, Pompei and its shamingly Italian charm, Naples is the place to see if you’re in traveling to Southern Italy. A famous quote from Goethe, that gives justice to the beauty of this city says: “See Naples, then die”.


This was my full-guide to Matera in Italy, a city of which I loved every single centimeter. If you found this article useful feel free to share it, and if you have any questions about the content of this guide, leave me a comment below to get in touch! 🙂

Enjoy your visit and see you in the next article!

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