Best Things to Do in Matera

A guided tour with an expert local guide will help you optimize your time in Matera. But in the meantime, here are some ideas on what is worth doing in the city of the Sassi.

How many days in Matera?

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “how many days do you need to visit Matera?” For me, traveling is not just about ticking off a list of places. Therefore, I invite you to take as much time as you need. With every step, every conversation, every coffee, and every meal, the city reveals more about itself. However, a trip still needs to be organized, so to answer the question: I believe that at least a couple of days are necessary to visit Matera properly.

Dal?'s clock in Matera

Here are some suggestions on what to do during your stay in Matera.

Talk to the locals

A city is also made up of its inhabitants. And we Materans are very friendly. At least that’s what they say about us! In fact, our nature is hospitable. Furthermore, for years our city was unknown or known for being a isolated and backward place. Now that the world has discovered Matera, we are definitely happy about it. We are grateful to see people from all over the world coming to visit our city and we gladly speak with them. So strike up a conversation, at the restaurant, at the bar, at the local market, with your host, with your lovely tour guide.

Matera talk

Local cuisine

I’m sure you will like the local cuisine. The typical Matera cuisine is able to delight the most demanding modern palates. It is a simple cuisine based on high quality ingredients. Little meat, lots of grains and vegetables. Practically all the restaurants offer traditional dishes, in some cases more or less revisited. Traditional street food is also a must. More information on this topic on the Matera Food Guide.


Visit a Cave-House Museum

In the Sassi, people lived for a long time in caves. Dark and humid spaces, mainly carved into the rock, almost always with a single window. Large families shared these caves with animals used to support the family, such as a mule, sometimes a pig, a goat, or chickens. Without running water and sewerage. This reality lasted until the mid-1950s. Today, some cave dwellings have become small museums, where the typical environment in which peasant families lived is reconstructed. Visiting one of these places is a very useful experience to better understand the city. The visit to a cave house is included in our tours in the Sassi.

Cave dwelling in the Sassi of Matera

Palombaro Lungo

Matera is known worldwide for its system of water collection and conservation, a feature that led to its UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site. Channels carved into the rock and gutters carried rainwater into cisterns where it was stored. Springwater was instead stored in large cisterns called palombari. The largest of these cisterns is now open to the public. It is called Palombaro Lungo and is located beneath the current Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It is enormous, capable of holding approximately 5 million liters of water, 50 meters long and 18 meters deep. It was created by connecting pre-existing caves. Today, a visit to Palombaro Lungo allows visitors to appreciate the importance of the water collection system.

Palombaro Lungo

Take a trip out of town

Matera is surrounded by interesting places that are worth visiting. The nearby Altamura (20 Km) offers a pretty historical center with a beautiful cathedral built by the emperor Frederick II. Gravina is located on the edge of a beautiful canyon, with a scenic aqueduct bridge, and churches of some importance. Craco (56 Km) is a ghost town completely abandoned in the 1960s due to a landslide. It has a very suggestive atmosphere. To reach it you cross sparsely inhabited areas that offer the natural spectacle of the Calanchi. Metaponto (47 Km) on the Ionian coast, as well as being a seaside resort, was an important Greek city, where Pythagoras lived and taught. It retains remarkable archaeological remains. Bari is the largest city in southeast Italy. A dynamic and young seaside city. It also 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 trulli, among the most unusual houses you will ever see.

Craco, Basilicata
Tavole Palatine, Metaponto

Visit a Quarry

“For a long time, the caves in the Sassi were used as quarries to get building materials. However, there are actual quarries located near the city as well. Some has been used since the Middle Ages, but mostly in the 20th century. Some were abandoned and later reused for artistic purposes. The vertically cut walls create very suggestive environments. The Palomba Quarry, which now serves as a Sculpture Park, is especially noteworthy, as is the Sole Quarry, which is used for concerts, major events, and artistic performances. These places offer unique emotions in an extraordinary environment.”

Parco Scultura La Palomba

Visit the Museums of Matera

The Palazzo Lanfranchi Museum is housed in a beautiful 17th century palace. It has a section of 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 by the great Italian painter and writer. The Domenico Ridola National Archaeological Museum was established in 1911 thanks to a donation from the Materan archaeologist Domenico Ridola and boasts a rich collection of archaeological finds. The Musma on the other hand is the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture in Matera, located in a beautiful 16th century building, Palazzo Pomarici, with over 400 works by international artists.

Carlo Levi's Lucania 61

Go to Church

Matera boasts numerous churches. First and foremost are the so-called rock churches, ancient places of worship carved into the rock, such as the so-called Crypt of Original Sin, Santa Lucia alle Malve, Santa Maria de Idris, San Pietro Barisano. But also important religious buildings such as the marvelous Romanesque Cathedral from the 13th century and elegant Baroque churches. Hidden inside these places are real treasures: frescoes, paintings, and architecture of great value. So, it’s absolutely worth going to church! Choose to do so with one of the tours offered.

Cripta del Peccato Originale, Matera

Wear Comfortable Shoes

If you want to enjoy your walk in the Sassi, remember to pack a comfortable pair of shoes. The cobblestones of the Sassi streets are largely irregular and slippery. The beauty of the views will make you forget to watch your steps. So be careful, enjoy the panorama, and wear the right shoes!

Via Muro, Matera

Feel safe

According to the prestigious Italian newspaper “Il Sole 24 Ore”, Matera has been considered one of the safest cities in Italy for many years. Here, it is easy to feel as safe as one would at home. Relax, enjoy the city, and stroll peacefully through the streets of Matera at any time!

Piazza Vittorio Veneto Matera


Matera is a small town. It is likely that your accommodation is in the Sassi or in a central area, so you probably won’t need a car to get around the city. Therefore, I advise you to park it in one of the public or guarded parking lots and walk tall, admiring the civil and religious architectures of Matera to enjoy a unique city and in a human scale.

Walking in Matera

Enjoy the nightlife

Especially on weekends and every day during the summer, the center of Matera is full of people who stroll, have a drink or dine in one of the many bars and restaurants in the city. The busiest area is the one around via Ridola, just outside the Sassi. So, don’t go to bed too early! Go for a walk, have a glass of wine and enjoy a very lively city.

Sassi night

Get Lost

It’s what happens to you when you walk through the alleys and labyrinthine streets of the Sassi without a tour guide. Jokes aside, wandering a little randomly in such beauty is part of the experience of this unique city.

Civita e Murgia, Matera

Get ready to love Matera

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