One of the questions people ask me the most is: how many days one needs to visit Matera? For me, traveling is not about ticking a list of places. So I suggest you to take your time. With every step, short conversation, cup of coffee and meal you have, the city will reveal something more about itself. Still, a trip schedule is needed. So, my answer to the question is: I believe that a couple of days are needed at least to visit Matera properly.
A place is also made up of its people. And the people from Matera are very friendly. Or at least that’s what everyone tells us! We are naturally very hospitable. Furthermore, for years our city has remained unknown or known for being isolated and underdeveloped. Now that the world has noticed Matera, we are happy with it. We are grateful to see foreigners coming to visit our city, and we talk to them with great pleasure. So have a chat, at the restaurant, at the bar, at the local market, with your host, with your lovely tour guide.
I am sure you will like the local cuisine. Everyone enjoys the traditional food of Matera. It seems made to satisfy our culinary sensibility. It is a simple cuisine based on the quality of the food, made of little meat and lots of vegetables. Almost all the restaurants offer traditional dishes, in some cases more or less revisited. Traditional street food is also a must. Read more about this in the Matera food guide
Matera is also known throughout the world for its water collection and storage system, a feature that led to the inscription of Sassi as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Channels dug into the rock and gutters conveyed rainwater into cisterns where it was stored. The spring water, on the other hand, was stored in large cisterns called Palombari. The largest of these cisterns can now be visited. It is called Palombaro Lungo, it is located under the main square, Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It is huge; in fact, it can hold about 5 million liters of water, 50 meters long and 18 meters deep. It was built by connecting pre-existing caves. The whole city supplied itself with drinking water, lowering the buckets into this large cistern. When running water reached the city, this large cistern was abandoned and forgotten for decades. It was explored again in 1991. A visit to the Palombaro Lungo allows you to appreciate the importance of the water collection system.
Matera is surrounded by beautuful places to visit. The near Altamura (20 Km) offers a nice old town with a beautiful cathedral built by will of the emperor Frederick II. Gravina is on the edge of a beautiful canyon, with a scenic aqueduct bridge, and churches of a certain value. Craco (56 Km) is a ghost town completely abandoned in the 1960s following a landslide. It has a very suggestive atmosphere. To reach it you go across sparsely inhabited areas that offer the natural spectacle of badlands, known as ‘Calanchi’. Metaponto (47 Km) is located on the Ionian coast and, beside being a seaside resort, was also an important Greek city, where Pythagoras lived. It preserves important archaeological remains. Bari (60 Km) is the biggest city in the south east of Italy. It is a dynamic and young city with also a seaside. Moreover, it has a beautiful old town with the Castle, the Cathedral and the Church of San Nicola Alberobello (63 Km) in the Itria valley. It is the land of the trulli, among the strangest houses you will ever see.
For a long time the caves of the Sassi also worked as quarries, since their excavation provided building material too. But there are also real quarries located around the city. Used mainly during the 1900s, some are abandoned and reused for artistic purposes. The vertical cut walls offer very suggestive panorama.The Palomba quarry now houses a Sculpture Park. But also the Cava del Sole deserves a special mention, as now is a space set up to hosts concerts, major events and artistic performances. Places that offer incomparable emotions in an extraordinary setting.
Museo di Palazzo Lanfranchi is located in a beautiful 17th century building. It has a section about medieval art with mostly religious works, the D’ Errico collection which is one of the most important collections of paintings in southern Italy and the Carlo Levi collection which houses many works of the great Italian painter and writer.
The museo archeologico nazionale Domenico Ridolaestablished in 1911 thanks to a donation from the local archaeologist Domenico Ridola shows a rich collection of archaeological finds. The Musma is the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture of Matera, located in the beautiful 16th century Palazzo Pomarici with more than 400 artwork by international artists.
For many centuries, art largely coincided with sacred art. Matera boasts many churches. Ancient churches carved into the rock, such as te so-called Crypt of the original sin, the Romanesque Cathedral, evocative Greek churches, majestic Baroque buildings. Inside the churches there are real jewels: frescoes, paintings and statues of great value. It is absolutely worth going to church! Choose to do it in one of the Matera Private Tours
If you want to enjoy your walk in the Sassi choose comfortable shoes. The paving stones are irregular and slippery. The beauty of the many highlights will prevent you from being careful of where to put your feet. So be careful and wear right shoes!
According to the prestigious Italian newspaper Il sole 24 ore, for many years Matera has been praised to be one of the safest cities in Italy. So feel at home, relax and walk carefree through Materastreets during any part of the day.
Matera is a small town. Your accommodation will probably be in the Sassi or in a central area, so you will definitely not need a car to go around. You could park you vehicle in one of the many car parks, public or guarded and enjoy a nice walk in a people-oriented city as Matera is.
Especially on the weekend and every day in the summertime, the old town of Matera is full of people walking, having a drink or a dinner in one of the many bars and restaurants of the city. The most crowded area is around via Ridola, just outside the SassiSo, don’t go to bed too early, take a walk, have a drink and enjoy a very lively city.
Getting lost is what actually happens when you walk the narrow, winding and labyrinthine alleys of the Sassi without a tour guide. But, in all seriousness, wandering around in such a beauty is part of the experience.
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