Surely, you’ve seen small caves dug out of the top of a mountain, but did you ever imagine an entire city carved out of the side of a high mountain slope? Well, this is Matera; like a stone nativity scene made to create living space out of the mountain, digging into the stone to accommodate all kinds of buildings: homes, chapels, churches, etc. It’s a visual delight that will make you wonder if you’re dreaming or awake.
Once in Matera, the city itself will inspire you to get lost in its narrow alleys, to stop at its infinite number of overlooks and sneak in a view of the mountains every now and then. You’ll wonder what century you’re in (and who blasted you back to the past without asking first).
As in almost every ancient European city, Matera is divided into two parts, old and new. What’s cool here is the old part, which is where all the fascinating sights of this historical city are…although you’ll soon see that the old centre is a world unto itself divided into different areas.
These are the areas of Sasso Caveoso, with countless caves to visit; Sasso Barisano, again with caves, but on the opposite side; Civita is in between, with the most spectacular views; and finally, the Piano area, which is a little more recent but with so much to see.
We recommend that you start with the neighbourhood of Sasso Caveoso. Walk through its narrow streets that are only a meter or so wide and go exploring where you can (many caves have free entry). It’s also quite an experience to visit the remodelled caves, which are museums. This is a good way to see how people lived in antiquity.
Lastly, Matera is full of panoramic overlooks where you can get a bird’s eye view and take in everything from way up. Matera is one of the most spectacular places in Italy. Now all you have to do is pack your bags and book your flight to Rome and get to know it first-hand.