Hi travellers! I’m Vincenzo Gabriele from the Instagram profile @gabrylux. Welcome to my travel guide on the best things to do in Matera, Italy.
I was born and raised near a small town in La Sila where at the age of 16 I discovered a passion for urban and nature photography. In recent years, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with various national and international brands, and also sharing my travel adventures with the world.
What inspires me to discover hidden corners of our planet and tell unique stories through my photography is just the idea of living life to the fullest at every moment. Travelling the world and visiting new places gives me incredible emotions that I’ve never experienced before.
While I love travelling overseas to exotic new destinations, I also cherish the moments when I can explore my own backyard. Italy is one of the most beautiful countries on earth and is home to incredible places bursting with history, natural beauty and great food. One of those such places is Matera.
Why you should Visit Matera
Matera is one of those cities in Italy that I have always wanted to visit because of its history and charm. It’s absurd to think that a small place full of ruins over time has become one of the most beautiful places in the world that hosts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year!
What struck me the most when I visited were the alleyways. They were so well cared for that it’s impossible not to stop for a moment and observe them carefully. Then from the upper parts of the city you can admire all the beauty of Matera. The best time to visit is between June and August.
Latest Two Day Trip to Matera
I visited Matera last year but not as a tourist. I went as a guest to a wedding ceremony and unfortunately didn’t have the time to explore it properly. My latest visit this year was for two full days and was just wonderful.
One day would have been enough but taking a tour at night here is one of the most beautiful experiences. It feels like you’re in a real Christmas festivity scene. This tour was a fantastic activity. Even the caves deserve a lot of time and from there you can enjoy unique views of the whole city.
I captured many photos on this trip and they were all beautiful. One of my favourite places to photograph was the Sasso Barisano – made up of buildings and architecture carved into the rock of Murgia. You will know why this is such an amazing spot when you get the chance to visit.
7 Best Things To Do in Matera
Matera is the most fascinating place. Old Matera is split up into two sections – Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso – and is recognised as the world’s third longest continuously inhabited settlement. There is quite a lot to see here and my below recommendations are a good place to start.
1. Discover the Incredible Matera Underground
Excavations were carried out in Vittorio Veneto Square in the 1990’s and this revealed an underground part of the city. It was found to be rich in architectural beauty. A highlight is certainly the “Palombaro Lungo” cistern which used to be the main water storage for the town.
2. Learn about the 15th Century Tramontano Castle
The impressive Tramontano Castle is perched on the Lapillo Hill near the town center. History provides tales of the unpopular Count Tramontano who was killed by the townsmen before the castle was in fact finished. It’s a fantastic place to visit for an afternoon and learn some history too.
3. Marvel at the Architecture of Matera Cathedral
Matera Cathedral is one of the most gorgeous pieces of architecture in the city. Marvel at the intricate details and beauty of the cathedral and take plenty of photos while you’re at it! The cathedral was built in the Apulian Romanesque style and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
4. Explore Alta Murgia National Park
The stunning Alta Murgia National Park is located between the towns of Matera and Montescaglioso. It’s known for its rocky Italian landscape. There is a lot to see in this park including the famous 150 rock churches and wild nature that you can explore on various different treks, hikes and walks.
5. Tour Casa Noha, the Gateway to Matera
Touring Casa Noha is a fantastic precursor to visiting the different sassi of Matera. This exhibit takes you through three rooms of a 16th century family home that was donated to the Fondo Ambiente Italiano. The house is immersed in stone and becomes a place of learning for those who visit.
6. Visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista
The church of San Giovanni Battista is another stunning church to visit in Matera. Again, it was built in a Apulian Romanesque style and was completed in 1233. Highlights of the church include a decorated portal, a rose window with ornaments and a stone statue of San Giovanni Battista.
7. Admire the Sassi di Matera (the Stones of Matera)
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sassi di Matera represents one of the ancient parts of the city and it’s where the most classic photos of Matera come from. Wander around the ancient streets, explore little caves, enjoy local food and, of course, take many photos of this gorgeous area.
Amazing Culture & Food of Matera
I had the opportunity to visit some houses in Matera and I must say that they were impressive. Being inside the caves is really cool. Outside it was 40 degrees while inside the temperature was at least 10 degrees lower.
Also, I got the chance to visit the garage of a craftsman and discovered some tools that they used in ancient times. What struck me most was a cucu owl of prehistoric origin. This was probably one of the first examples of a toy in history and dates back to the ancient times. Very cool to see!
Another fantastic aspect about Matera and Southern Italy is the food. I could not resist the delicacies of this place. Matera is famous for its IGP (Indication of Geographical Protection) bread which is salty and soft with a crunchy crust. This bread is used for lightly fried sandwiches.
The puccia sandwich with sauteed vegetables and Lucanian sausage is a fantastic dish which I highly recommend. When it comes to specific restaurants in Matera, however, some at the top-end are really expensive.
If you want to save money I recommend you go to the taverns where the locals eat everyday. There are many cute little taverns around and they are super cheap and often offer the menu of the day at an honest price.
Where to Stay in Matera
In Matera I gave myself a treat. Having to stay only one night, I ended up booking a characteristic hotel called “La Locanda di San Martino”. This hotel has rooms carved into the rock and offers an incredible view of the city. It was incredibly beautiful but not the cheapest place for budget travellers!
Favourite Memory from Matera
My favourite memory of Matera was when I stumbled upon two marvellous places while walking through the narrow streets. One of these places was a set of beautiful sculptures by the artist Margherita Grasselli. They consist of small and large sculptures of thoughtful women and girls on terraces.
The other amazing place I found was totally by accident. I honestly don’t even remember where exactly it was but it seemed like something out of a postcard. You can see this spot in the picture below. Good luck finding it 🙂
Need to Know Before you Go
As I mentioned before, my advice is to visit Matera between June and August. Make sure you pack comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and above all some sunscreen to protect you from the sun. I assure you that in Matera the summer is super hot! Thanks for reading and enjoy your visit.