Matera

Sassi matera guest posts on Italy

Matera post was written by friend and tourist by chance – Vittoria Vigni.

Welcome to Matera

Sassi matera guest posts on Italy

Matera is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy and last week I decided to visit a friend of mine who is working for the movie Ben Hur (link).

My first afternoon in Matera we wondered around the sublime old city, called Sassi (UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means ‘rocks’, because, yes!, the entire historic center is carved in the rocks.

Every corner of Matera has something unique, a lot of friendly cats will say meow to you, longing for a piece of ham. You will find friendly locals (aka materani) greeting you and asking where you are from and they will probably suggest where to eat good ‘orrecchiete alle cime di rapa (video to recipe) or ‘burrata.

Matera
Matera Sassi

Materani are lovely and simple people. Matera used to be very poor until a few years ago and as for many parts of southern Italy, the main source of income were in small farms and agriculture.

Only recently, with the discovery of some oil wells in Basilicata, along with the productions of movies like ‘The Passion’, ‘Ben Hur’, ‘Basilicata coast to coast (a good guide to Basilicata and entertaining) and the award for Capital of European Culture 2019, has helped Matera gain some much needed attention from the world.

I cannot know if Matera will change in the future or if it will sell it self to money but right now it’s a marvellous place that I strongly suggest you visit and enjoy this untouched, unique part of Italy. 

What to do?

1. The ‘Sassi’, certainly the most important site to see when in Matera. The Sassi are located in the centro storico (historic center) and they have been the back drop to many movies. As you walk through Sassi, you can appreciate the history and the events that have marked this beautiful part of the world. Considered as a ‘cultural site’ from Unesco’s World Heritage List, Matera’s sassi is a trip you will never forget.

Matera
Housing in Matera

2Matera’s Cathedral – The Cathedral dates back to 13th century and was built atop of an older Sant’Eustachio church. 

3. Rupestrian churches in Matera – they are dug into the tuff rock! Amazing icons of architectural virtuosity and exceptional works of art. 

  • Church of San Pietro Barisano
  • Church of Santa Lucia delle Malve
  • Rupestrian Complex of Convicinio di Sant’Antonio
  • Churches of Santa Maria de Idris
  • San Giovanni
  • Church of Santa Barbara
  • Rupestrian Complex of Madonna delle Virtù and San Nicola dei Greci
Cathedral of Matera
San Pietro Caveoso

San Pietro Caveoso (click for audio guide)

4. Other important highlights (click the links for a brief audio explanation of each):

  • Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera (8,000 hectares and 150 rupestrian churche)
  • Grotta dei Pipistrelli (YouTube video)
  • The cave-house of Vico (voyage back in time)

Why Visit?

1. Simply a unique part of the world – when they say ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. 

2. Walking. Looking for a place to burn the holiday calories? Sassi is the place to do it! Stairs everywhere and lots of them so make sure to have comfortable shoes. 

3. The fact that Matera has not been a busy tourist destination for so long gives the city that sense of purity and maintains its ‘undiscovered treasure’ status. For now Matera is really authentic and it’s miles away from becoming a trashy touristic leisure center.

4. One of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences that you can have in Matera is going in one of the “Latteria” – small traditional deli that you can find almost everywhere in the ‘centro storico’ (historic center). A Latteria is where you buy a “panino” with the phenomenal bread from Lucania filled with provola and one of the local cured meats (prosciutto crudo or salame). With a ‘panino’ in hand, enjoy the wonderful world that is ‘Sassi’. From its tiny streets to the wonderful landscape – Sassi will be your highlight.

Matera

5. Food. Food and more food.  This is a really important thing to keep in mind if you travel in Italy: the more you go south the more Food becomes the central topic of every conversation. And I thik it’s really fair, considering all the delicacies you can try! You will note that the local gastronomy is tightly connected with the peasant and pastoral tradition.

  • orecchiette con cime di rapa (link to italian recipe video).
  • cotto di fichi
  • the mushroom “cardoncello”, it can be eaten raw with ricotta, lemons and olive oil or cooked/baked
  • Easter Monday,it is custom to cook cardoon with cheese and eggs, and pastries with fig and honey

6. Value. The prices were far from my expectations. Everywhere we ate was more or less the same (to be more precise: approx. 25 euros each that included a huge antipasto, a main course, wine, coffe and a couple of desserts to share). This of course is much cheaper than the more touristy areas ‘up north’. 

7. Area 8 (link to Tripadvisor).  That night after a heavy dinner we decided to shake our… bodies in the only Sassi’s club, Area 8. Area 8 is an unbelievable place, when I entered in for the first time I thought I was in Milan. The interior is refined, modern and a little hipster, something that is really distant from the inner self of Matera. The owner of Area 8 was so friendly and available with us that he let us change the playlist and put our own music. We danced until 4 in the morning, definitively burning all the calories from dinner.

Matera Sassi
Palaeolithic caves of Matera

How to get there?

By Car

Starting from Siena I decided to travel using Blablacar (link or read more in Useful Links). The first leg (Siena to Rome) I travelled with two professors from the  archeology department of the University of Siena and they were interesting company. On the second leg, our driver was a guy from Matera who, during the journey, suggested all the local restaurants and bars (see our Restaurants section).

Blablacar is a sort of social platform for travellers. It is really easy and safe to use and it’s becoming more and more popular in Europe. At the moment Blablacar is the cheapest and nicest way to travel around Italy. Normally train, buses and especially flights are much more expensive and uncomfortable, plus, with Blablacar you have the chance of meeting new people.

It works like this: you need a ride to Rome starting from Milan, let’s say the 14th of march, you put those information in the browser of Blablacar and it will display all the people offering a ride from Milan to Rome. You contact them, decide a meeting place f and then it’s done. When you are ready you jump on the car heading to Rome or wherever you want to go.

By Train

* Since Vittoria used Blablacar and not public transportation for her trip, we have put together information on how to reach Matera from other online sources. 

From research and friends who have visited Matera, if you will be traveling by train to Matera from major cities, you will need to reach Bari Centrale (Bari Central Station) first.

From Bari Centrale, get off at Bari North station (Bari Nord) and go to the private railway station on the right side.

  • The small yellow building on the left from the central station is Bari North station.
  • The ticket office is on the first floor of the station.
  • Price: EUR 4 one way (this current for 2015)
  • Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
  • There are c.a. 14 trains a day (6 express trains).
  • If you take the local train, you have to change at Alta Mura station.
  • Please be careful not to miss Matera Central station (Matera Centrale), because there is no sign at the station.
  • You can ask conductor

Arriving at Matera Centrale (Matera Central Station)

  • Ticket office is located on the first floor.
  • Train and bus schedules are posted near the ticket office.
  • Platform is underground.

Make sure to see the useful AmoItalia site for transportation info to and from Matera or Wiki Travel page on has also some useful information.

Matera
Bus route map

By Bus

On the BasilicataNet website, you will find useful links and information on buses in and around Matera. 

Via Bari –  there are many direct buses leaving from the main Italian cities. If you use one of them, you can save time and money. On the bus ticket agency ATS’s website it can be found the time of long-distance buses of several companies.

  1. FAL’s bus Matera-Bari
    About 5 buses per day, from Bari to Matera (Piazza Matteotti).
    Potenza is the starting station.
    Timetables are available at FAL’s web site.

Via other cities – There are a few long-distance direct buses from other cities to Matera. However, once on board you can only wait to arrive, it’s very easy! These buses are so beautiful, fun and very convenient. Please check the timetable before.

All of the following buses stop at “Matera Villalongo station”, 1 km away from the center of the town, so get off there. “Matera Villalongo station” is useful to take a taxi. You can arrive at the heart of Matera at about 10 euros.

  1. Marino’s bus (Autolinee Marino)
    From Perugia, from Turin, from Bologna and from Milan (available on their web site, may also from Arezzo and from Naples)
  2. Marozzi’s bus (Autolinee Marozzi)
    From Siena, from Florence, from Pisa and from Roma (available on their web site)
  3. Liscio’s bus (Autolinee Liscio)
    From Rome (Rome Tiburtina bus terminal, ticket office is there)

More information can be found in our Useful Links section (click to view)

Information on the tourist by chance:

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Vittoria was born in Siena and has a true passion for travel. She knows Tuscany well, along with many parts of Italy. Vittoria is great at travelling on a budget and well accustomed to luxury travel. For any questions you may wish to direct to Vittoria, email touristsbychance@gmail.com. 

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