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Visit Matera and its Sassi: Things to do in Puglia’s must-see troglodyte town

Matera vieille ville

An extraordinary troglodyte town, unique in the world, Matera and its famous Sassi di Matera are a must-see on your trip to Puglia. Its layout and history are very different from those of other Italian cities, and Puglia in particular, that we’ve already visited.

It is also 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, some of the most beautiful hotels stand next to 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.

In 1993, the two ancient housing areas(sassi) were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In short, a mandatory stop during your stay in Puglia. At the end of the article, you’ll also find our map with all our addresses. As always, our aim is to help you organize your trip as easily as possible!

Visit Matera and its Sassi: Puglia's must-see troglodyte town

Matera to integrate, absolutely, to your itinerary in Puglia

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.

Visit Matera and its Sassi in Italy

How to get to Matera from Bari?

Matera is about 70km from Bari, so there are several options for visiting Matera from Bari:

  • In our opinion, it’s ideal by car, as it’s 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 close 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’re vigilant and careful, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Ideally, if your plane arrives late, we advise you not to drive at night.

How do I rent a car?

Car rental: To compare car rental prices, we recommend the RentalCars website, which compares the prices of hundreds of car rental companies to find the best price. To give you an idea of prices, we found a car for €60 a 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€.
Matera old town

Parking in Matera

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.

Matera old town

Lodging in a beautiful Sassi (a troglodyte cave)

Staying inside a sassi (ancient cave) is a unique experience!

Without hesitation, we recommend Il belvedere Matera, unbeatable value for money in the city, located in the heart of the Caveoso sasso, you can do everything on foot.

We fell in love with 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 is the impressive view from the terrace where breakfast is served. In short, we had an excellent stay.

hotel matera sassi in a cave
Il belvedere Matera an incredible hotel

Are you looking for somewhere to stay during your stay in Puglia ? To help you, we give you all our advice in this article on Where to sleep in Puglia in Italy, and share our best hotel addresses and unusual accommodations.

What to see in Matera our 15 must-sees and itinerary

Matera is perched on a plateau between the mountains, overlooking a deep ravine. What makes this site particularly spectacular are the numerous caves (sassi) that can be found here.

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.

➡️Si you would like to understand in depth the dimension of this incredible site and the history of the city, you can opt for a guided tour in French or in the language of your choice, including a visit to several churches. All costs are included and your local guide will provide you with a wealth of information.

view of Matera

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.

Sasso Barisano

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.

Sant Agostino church viewpoint

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.

Duomo Matera

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 haven’t done it, but other travelers have recommended it to us, and it seems that the works are extremely well displayed in these pretty 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.

visit matera,sassi matera

8. Sasso Caveoso

We prefer the second one in town, because when 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.

San pietro Caveseo matera

10. ❤️❤️❤️ Viewpoint piazza san pietro

San pietro Caveseo matera

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)

matera churches italy

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.

restaurant Matera Apulia

14. ❤️❤️❤️ Radino wine bar

A refined address, a menu with only a few dishes (primi and secondi), for us this is a sign that everything is home-made and for a very reasonable price. One of our best restaurants in Puglia.

15. Stroll at nightfall

As night falls, enjoy the town’s special atmosphere, as the city lights create a warm, medieval ambiance.

The best guided tours

To visit the city’s various points of interest, you can book your activities in advance via the Internet.

We advise you to take a look at the getyourguide website which offers various activities at unbeatable prices. It can also give you plenty of ideas for original activities to organize your stay.

Matera, an open-air cinema set, James Bond

The town is a favorite with film-makers the world over, as its alleyways are veritable 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.

Our recommendations 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.

Belvedere Murgia Timone matera

Explore the 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.

park Altopiano della Murgia Materana Matera

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!


Our map with all our good addresses

As you know, we love to put all our good addressesand points of interest on a map to make our readers’ stay easier. Of course, we share this map with you below:

Matera our opinion

We stayed in Matera for two days, and were completely amazed by the town. We’re even thinking of going back to enjoy it even more.

It’s our favorite town in Puglia at the moment, as it’s not yet too touristy. We were there out of season (in October), so we were able to make the most of it. Next time we’ll opt for a guided tour in French, to learn more about this incredible city. Now we’re off to theAlberobello Trulli!

We wish you an excellent trip! Don’t hesitate to leave us a little note or 5 stars below, if you’re planning this trip, to ask any questions you may have, here or on Instagram, we’ll answer you with great pleasure.

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A traveler at heart, I've always felt at home anywhere in the world. I'm also passionate about new technologies. I love trying out all the typical dishes when I arrive in a country. Always on the lookout for new experiences, I'm sharing the ones I've had through this blog.
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