Visit Matera: Top 13 Things To Do and Must-See Attractions


The Best Things to Do and See in Matera, Italy

You’re planning to visit Matera, in Italy, and you’re looking for the best places to visit?

You’re at the right place!

Visiting Matera in the southern part of Italy (Basilicata region) means discovering one of the oldest cities in the world.

Just like Alberobello in Puglia, it’s unique and has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its very particular houses: the Sassi.

In order to help you plan your stay, I have written this guide of the best things to do in Matera, with all must-see attractions and points of interest.

At the end of the article, you will also find the 3 best places to visit near Matera as well as my suggestions of the best accommodations depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Matera? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

Matera: All the Best Places to Visit

History and Culture: What is a Sassi?

Each year, thousands of visitors are attracted to Matera for its unique charm, attributable to its typical dwellings, the Sassi.

However, if you hadn’t heard of Matera before planning your stay in Puglia and Basilicata, a small explanation is in order: what is a Sassi?

The Sassi di Matera (which translates to “Stones of Matera”) are troglodyte dwellings.

Initially simple caves carved out by the stream that flows at the bottom of the ravine, these sites have been occupied since the Paleolithic era, making Matera one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the oldest archaeological sites!

Over the centuries, the caves were transformed into proper houses. Since the rock is very soft, it was only natural for the inhabitants of Matera to dig their homes into it and live there.

The extracted rock was then used to shape the facades of the dwellings and, over time, a real city was born.


Today there are nearly 3,000 habitable caves as well as several churches carved in the rocks or within caves. They served as refuges for Byzantine monks in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Unfortunately, by the 1950s, the Sassi were nothing more than a vast slum housing the poorest families. Living conditions were miserable, and the Sassi were utterly unsanitary.

Many diseases spread, and the infant mortality rate soared to 50%!

Towards the end of the 1950s, the government initiated a large-scale evacuation program for the Sassi, and the population was rehoused in modern neighborhoods of Matera.

The Sassi were then left to decay until the 1980s when a restoration program was launched to preserve this unique cultural heritage. In 1993, the Sassi di Matera were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most of the Sassi today house guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Matera by night
Matera by night

Things to Do and See in Matera

In Matera, you will find thousands of Sassi. The historic center is divided into 2 districts to visit:

  • Sasso Caveoso
  • Sasso Barisano, which hosts the Civita district, the oldest part of Matera

Matera can only be visited by foot, as some areas are completely restricted to cars, and other parts are exclusively reserved for residents.

To visit Matera and not miss out on any of the things to do and see, you should head to one of the tourist offices around the city (there are several) to pick up a city map. There, you’ll find 3 suggested routes, of varying lengths, to ensure you catch all the interesting spots in Matera.

So, what are the best places to visit in Matera? Here are 11 sites you shouldn’t miss:

1) The Duomo or Cathedral of Matera: Built in 1230, the cathedral was fully renovated recently when the city was named European Capital of Culture in 2019. Its exterior façade is quite simple, typical of the Romanesque style from Puglia.

Inside, you’ll be able to admire a magnificent medieval fresco: “The Last Judgment.” From the square of the Duomo, you will also enjoy a stunning view of Matera and the Sassi.

2) The Church of San Pietro Caveoso, built right on the edge of the ravine of Matera, offering a great panorama.

3) The rock-hewn church of the Madonna de Idris, carved into the rock, it overlooks the ravine of Matera.

4) The Casa grotta di Vico Solitario, a small museum that recreates and displays the living conditions in the Sassi with period furniture and objects.

5) The Convicinio di Sant’Antonio, a complex that houses 4 rock churches.

6) The MOOM, Matera Olive Oil Museum, a tiny museum where they explain olive oil production.

7) The Palazzo Lanfranchi which houses the Museum of Modern Art. Also, be sure to check out the viewpoint from the Piazzetta Pascoli for a panorama over the Sassi and the ravine.

8) The Church of St. Francis of Assisi located in the square of the same name.

9) The Monastery of Sant’Agostino.

10) The National Archaeological Museum to understand the origins of the city of Matera and its surroundings.

11) Tramontano Castle, started in 1501 by the Count who ruled over Matera, was never finished. The residents, unhappy with the amount of taxes they had to pay, indeed killed the Count in the street, just outside the cathedral!

Voyage Tips - Advice

Matera has been a filming location for many famous movies: Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004, as well as Ben Hur in 2016 and Wonder Woman in 2017.

Church of San Pietro Caveoso Matera
Church of San Pietro Caveoso Matera

Guided Tour of Matera

The best way to discover all Matera’s highlights (especially if you want to learn more about the history of the city and the Sassi) is to book a guided tour.

The best guided tour of Matera is a 2h30 walking tour that will allow you to explore the different districts and visit the interior of a cave house as well as a rock church.

The guide, Giuseppe, is very friendly and knowledgeable!

To book your guided tour to the Sassi of Matera, you just need to click on the green button below:

As I mentioned earlier, the main and best way to explore Matera is on foot, but if you’re not up for too much walking, there are 2 other ways to see parts of the city:

The 3 Best Things to Do Around Matera

If your visit to the Sassi of Matera doesn’t take up your whole day, here are the 3 best places to visit around Matera.

Murgia Materana Park

During your visit to Matera, you must have noticed people wandering on the opposite side of the ravine, in Murgia Materana Park, also known as the “Park of the Rock Churches of Matera”.

You should really go there, if only to see Matera from a different angle at Murgia Timone lookout located in the park. It’s only about a 10-minute drive from Matera.

Alternatively, you can also reach the other side on foot by descending stairs at Piazza Postergola and crossing a suspension bridge.

The lookout is the perfect spot to capture a stunning panorama of all the Sassi!

Spanning 8,000 hectares, Murgia Park is ideal for hiking. Here you can discover some of the 150 rock churches currently identified in the area.

For more information, head to Matera tourist office to get a map of the trails. Some are even suitable for mountain biking.

It’s also possible to book a guided tour of Murgia Park with a specialized guide. The transfer from Matera and tickets for the churches are included in the price.

You need to book your guided tour of Murgia Park here:

This is definitely one of the must-see places around Matera!

Voyage Tips - Advice

You’re going to Matera?

You probably know it: the hardest part of planning your trip is to find an hotel offering a good value for money!

The closer you get to your travel dates, the harder it will be to get a good deal. Lots of people will be visiting Matera on the same dates as you, so you can be sure that the best deals are booked extremely quickly!

Hopefully, there is a pretty simple solution to this problem: do like me and book your hotel as early as possible!

So, my best advice is to take 5 minutes (now) to have a look at the list of travelers’ favorite hotels in Matera.

And if you see a good offer, book it!

Most hotels offer free cancellation, so it’s quick, easy, and you will avoid the the inconvenience of finding nothing but mediocre rooms at exorbitant prices.

To check the current best deals for your hotel in Matera, simply click on the green button below 😎:

Once you’ve booked your hotel, it will be time to continue reading this guide and find out more about the best things to do in Matera!

Murgia Materana Park
Murgia Materana Park

The Puglia Canyon

In Puglia, there is a canyon that winds through several villages offering stunning viewpoints.

From Matera, it takes about 25 minutes to reach the nearest village, Laterza. The other villages crossed by the Puglia canyon are:

  • Ginosa and its medieval castle
  • Castellaneta, where a belvedere offers a great view of the ravines
  • Massafra, a village completely split in two by the canyon and connected by a bridge

Even though the villages are quite small, and there aren’t specific monuments to see, it’s pleasant to wander around and admire the various panoramas over the canyon.

All located near Matera, you’re very likely to pass them if you’re coming from Taranto or Alberobello. Be sure to stop there for a bit!

Time needed for the visit: Between 1 hour if you only wish to visit a single village and an afternoon if you want to see everything.

Puglia Canyon
Puglia Canyon

Castel Del Monte

Castel Del Monte is another tourist site you should see near Matera.

Located roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes by car from Matera, the castle is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 12th century atop a hill, it now stands isolated in the countryside. The site is worth a detour to admire its flawlessly shaped architecture.

You can also tour the interior for around ten euros, but there’s not much to see. The exterior will impress you much more!

Visiting Castel Del Monte is a good idea if you are planning to continue your trip towards Gargano National Park. In that case it won’t be a huge detour from Matera.

It’s also close to Trani (40 minutes) and Bari (1 hour).

Time needed for a visit: You’ll probably stop for about 15 to 30 minutes, long enough to take some photos! Allow a little more time if you wish to visit the inside.

Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte

How much time do you need to visit Matera?

To visit Matera (the city itself), I recommend planning half a day.

The Sassi are clustered in a specific area but the site is rather large and has many stairs. And as it’s really nice, you will want to make some photo stops and take your time!

You can choose to follow the routes provided by the tourist office or simply wander the streets as you please. You can’t get lost!

ideally, you should visit Matera in the afternoon and stay overnight. In the evening, the city lights up beautifully, creating a very special atmosphere. A spectacle you shouldn’t miss in Matera!

And the next morning, when you leave, don’t forget to make a stop at Murgia Materana Park to enjoy the view.

Where to stay in Matera

  • Matera in Vacanza: Located just 3 minutes on foot from the Sassi area. Spacious and very clean double room starting at 90€ per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the location for exploring Matera on foot, the warm welcome.
  • Thymus Residence nei Sassi: Located 5 minutes from the Matera Cathedral. This hotel offers double rooms set in Sassi, starting at 160€ per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the chance to experience sleeping in a Sassi, perfect location. My favorite for its excellent value for money in Matera.
  • Locanda Di San Martino Hotel & Thermae Romanae: Located in the heart of the Sassi. Double room with wooden furniture and vaulted ceilings in a Sassi from 200€ per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the indoor pool, valet service, comfortable bedding, the charm of the place. This is  my choice for a romantic stay in Matera!
  • Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel: Located in a former palace, just meters from the Piazza del Duomo. This 5-star hotel offers tastefully decorated double rooms starting at 480€, breakfast included. Strong points: the excellent breakfast, charming staff, location, spa. Simply the best luxury hotel in Matera!

Where to Eat in Matera

  • AltraPizza: Located on Via Giambattista Pentasuglia. This is the ideal spot for enjoying a good wood-fired pizza in Matera! There’s a wide variety to choose from, the portions are generous, and the prices are really affordable.
  • Kapunto: Located on Via Lucana. I highly recommend this restaurant if, like me, you’re a big fan of pasta! The pasta is freshly made on-site and displayed in the window. You then choose your type of pasta and your preferred sauce, and you’re all set! Delicious and not too expensive!
  • Dedalo – Sensi sommersi: If you’re looking for a more upscale restaurant, head to Dedalo. Located in a Sasso, it offers original and high-quality cuisine in a beautiful setting.
Matera Italy
Matera Italy

How to Get to Matera?

  • From Bari: The drive takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Starting from Bari, there are also shuttles that take you to Matera. You can find all the information about these bus transfers by clicking here!

  • From Taranto: You will reach Matera in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • From Alberobello: It’s a 1-hour and 10-minute journey to Matera.

My Impressions of Matera

Matera was a very pleasant surprise. There’s very little about it online, so I hadn’t seen many photos before visiting.

I was amazed by the expanse of the old town and the impressive number of Sassi. Everything has been wonderfully restored, and the city has managed to retain its authentic charm. Discovering Matera was one of my favorite experiences during my tour of Puglia!

Matera is a tourist hotspot, but unlike Alberobello (also a UNESCO World Heritage site and unique in the world), the souvenir shops and hotels are less “overpowering.”

You can walk around peacefully and fully immerse yourself in the ambiance.

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best places to visit in Matera
best places to visit in Matera

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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