Matera is an extraordinary city, unique in the world, which you must visit during your trip to Puglia. The layout and history are very different from other cities we have visited.
In 1993, the two ancient areas Barisano and Caveoso (named sassi) were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today thoses caves became, restaurants, hotels, shops, museums…
So you have to visit this city, during your stay in Puglia. Here we will share with you our best things to do and our itinerary and our map with all our best places, as always our goal is to help you to organize your trip easily!
- Matera the city you have to add to your Puglia itinerary
- Why is Matera special?
- Is Matera Italy safe ?
- How to get to Matera from Bari?
- Stay in Matera cave hotel
- 15 Best Things to do in Matera Italy + itinerary
- Guided tour
- Matera, an open-air movie set – James Bond
- What to do around Matera ?
- Map with our best places
- Is Matera Italy worth visiting?
Matera the city you have to add to your Puglia itinerary
The first question we asked ourselves was, is Matera located in the famous region of Puglia?
No, Matera is the capital of the province of Basilicata. The city is often associated with this region, because it is located only one hour from Bari, the capital of Puglia.
If you only have a few days in Puglia, our advice is to choose the incredible city of Matera over the lesser-known city of Bari.
Why is Matera special?
Matera is very special because it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, imagine that humans lived 7000 years in these caves, and that they stayed there until 1952.
Today, the most beautiful hotels are in caves that have been empty and damp for decades. You can walk through the town and enjoy the many views of the cave dwellings and the many churches.
Is Matera Italy safe ?
Yes absolutelly, Matera is one of the most visited cities in Italy. It is a city where you will feel totally safe in all areas. You will see a lot of families, Italians and tourists eating gelato everywhere.
How to get to Matera from Bari?
Matera is located about 70km from Bari, so in order to reach Matera from Bari, you have several options:
- By car, in our opinion it is ideal because it is only 1 hour from Bari and you can then keep it to explore Puglia.
Warning: the sassi and the old town are ZTL (zone traffico limitato), so you will not be able to cross, nor park, in these areas. We advise you to pay attention to the signs, because if you drive in this zone the fine is high. Don’t panic, the ZTLs are very well indicated. Below, we indicate the free and paid parking lots that we recommend.
We would also like to warn you that Italians have a sporty way of driving and a traffic code specific to the country. Don’t worry, if you are vigilant and careful you won’t have any problems. Ideally, if your plane arrives late, we advise you not to drive at night.
Car rental: To compare rental prices we recommend the RentalCars site which compares the price of hundreds of car rental companies to find the best price. To give you an idea of the price, we found a car for 60€ per day, at Bari airport.
- By trainThe company Ferrovie Appulo Lucane offers several trains a day from Monday to Saturday, and on Sundays the company SITA takes over, departing from Piazza Matteotto in the old town. The journey takes about 1h45.
- By busThe companies Cotrad and Bus Miccolis offer several buses from the airport of Bari to Matera. The trip lasts about 1h30, from 4€.
Where to park?
If you are staying in a Sassi, and therefore in the ZLT (zone traffico limitato), we advise you to ask your hotel or host for advice on how to park nearby and safely.
If you come for the day, you can park around the cemetery, located at 1km from the center and free of charge (point on the map below). You will find underground parking near the Sassi for a fee.
Stay in Matera cave hotel
Staying inside a sasso (a cave) is a unique and typical experience !
Without hesitation we recommend Il belvedere Matera, the value for money is unbeatable in the city, located in the heart of the sasso Caveoso, you can do everything on foot.
We had a huge I love this hotel. It is ideally located. The room is completely atypical since it is dug into the rock, a real troglodyte dwelling. And the big plus, the view is impressive from the terrace where breakfast is served. In short, we had an excellent stay.
15 Best Things to do in Matera Italy + itinerary
Matera is perched on a plateau between the mountains, overlooking a deep ravine. What makes the site particularly spectacular are the numerous caves (sassi) that are found there.
These caves were built in part to make homes, but also to make places of worship such as churches (about 150 in Matera and the surrounding area). We had never seen a city of this size, completely integrated into the rock and with a spectacular view of the canyon, which is why it is, in our opinion, a unique place in the world that will undoubtedly enchant you.
Today Matera is a dynamic city in full expansion as you will see during your visit many caves are currently under construction.
You could spend weeks in Matera and never get tired of it. But to see as much as possible, here is a tour with our must-see in Matera.
We propose a loop, from north to south, or to take en route depending on your accommodation. We chose to stay, as much as possible, near the cayon, in order to enjoy the sassi and also the magnificent views of the national park.
We noted several of them because it was really our favorite part of our visit. Count on 3 good hours to do this itinerary on foot, excluding time in churches and museums, since it is really up to each one! We did it in two half-days.
1. Sasso Barisano
An Italian sasso is a stone. You will have the chance to explore two of them in Matera. The natural or man-made caves form an incredible labyrinth, unique in the world.
2. ❤️❤️❤️ Sant Agostino church viewpoint
This 11th century baroque church is adjacent to the huge convent of St. Augustine. Before entering you can enjoy the incredible view of the national park and the Sasso Barisano, a big favorite for us.
3. Madonna delle Virtu :
It is a pretty church with rock paintings. A place to explore if you have time.
4. ❤️❤️ Duomo
Another church, this time it is a beautiful cathedral, it is even the most important of the city, it is located in the center and it overhangs the city. It was built during the 13th century in Romanesque style. You will have to climb to get there, you will be pleasantly surprised by its size and beauty.
5. ❤️ Casa Noha
This is THE tourist visit of our itinerary, it is a house transformed into a museum, in which a thirty-minute video is shown tracing the history of Matera. The video is really interesting during which we did not get bored. It allowed us to better appreciate the city.
If you are organized and have time, you can watch videos about Matera on Youtube before you come, so you don’t have to stop at the museum!
6. MUSMA, museo della Scultura contemporanea
It is a former convent where contemporary sculptures are exhibited. We did not do it but other travelers recommended it to us, in theory the works are extremely well presented in these beautiful caves. We have indicated this because we may have missed something. You will tell us and we will note it for our next visit to Matera.
7. ❤️ Parcheggio via Madonna delle Virtu’
Another point of view, we warned you. It is located on a parking lot that offers a magnificent view of the Sasso Caveoso and the national park.
8. Sasso Caveoso
The second one in town, we prefer it because at the time we visited it, we found it more authentic than its neighbor. There are fewer souvenir stores and tourist restaurants. It seems that there are more hotels in this part of the city.
9. San Pietro Caveseo
Beautiful church on the side of a cliff, we did not go inside. We were content to admire its magnificent façade.
10. ❤️❤️❤️ Viewpoint piazza san pietro
Another beautiful viewpoint, on the sasso Caveoso and the park, for a change!
11. ❤️❤️ Santa lucia alle malve
A rock church is a must in Matera, it is one of the largest with well restored frescoes. (3€50 per church or 6€ for both churches)
12. ❤️❤️ Gelateria I Vizi degli Angeli
In theory, it is the best in the city, we obviously, and unfortunately, could not test all of them, we can tell you that we enjoyed ourselves!
13. ❤️❤️ Malatesta
At lunchtime, it’s an osteria frequented by locals, simple, good and fast a perfect address for lunch.
14. ❤️❤️❤️ Radino wine bar
A refined address, a menu with only a few dishes (primi and secondi), for us it’s a sign that everything is prepared in house and for a very decent price. One of our best restaurants in Puglia.
15. Stroll at nightfall
At nightfall, enjoy the special atmosphere of the city, the lights of the city offer a medieval atmosphere, very warm.
To visit best places in Matera city, you can book a guided tour in English, in advance on internet.
We advise you to take a look at the getyourguide website with several activities at best prices. It can also give you lots of ideas for original activities to organize your stay.
Matera, an open-air movie set – James Bond
This city is popular with filmmakers from all over the world, since its alleys are real open-air movie sets.
Several films have been shot there in recent years, “Wonder Woman” 2017, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” 2004 and the latest James Bond “Die can wait” 2021. We even found some sets from the filming in the national park.
What to do around Matera ?
Belvedere Murgia Timone
This viewpoint can be reached by car, about fifteen minutes from the center of Matera. It is located on the hill in front of Matera, you will enjoy a magnificent panorama of the whole city of Matera and the sassi below. This is certainly the best way to discover the city before entering it. A bridge below also allows you to walk to it from the city.
We advise you to go there at the end of the day to enjoy the sunset and the lights that light up before your eyes giving a medieval city feel, a very warm atmosphere.
Explore Altopiano della Murgia Materana park
If you have the time, you can get the map of the hikes at the tourist office. You can explore one of the 150 rock churches and walk through the many caves that make up the park.
Explore Puglia and its beautiful beaches
Puglia is less visited than its neighbors, such as Tuscany, the Amalfi coast, the region of Naples and Venice… Obviously we were very attracted by this side of the world!
On the program, small villages full of charm such as Monopoli and Polignano a mare as well as the city of Lecce “The baroque Florence of Puglia” and sublime beaches with clear waters and to finish you will test an incredible gastronomy, our palates still remember it!
Map with our best places
As you know, we love to write down all our good addressesand points of interest on a map to facilitate our readers’ stay. Of course we share this map below with you:
Is Matera Italy worth visiting?
Oh yes ! we stayed two days in Matera, it is a city that has completely amazed us, we even plan to return to enjoy more.
It is our favorite city in Puglia, for the moment it is not yet a city too touristy, we were there out of season (in October), we could enjoy it fully without the horde of tourists and without the overwhelming heat that must reign in the summer. Now we continue our journey towards the Trulli of Alberobello !
We thank you for reading all the way through, don’t hesitate to leave us a note below to tell us if you are planning this trip, or to ask any questions you may have, we will answer you with great pleasure!