Matera is probably most famous for the interesting cave dwellings that you will find in the historic Sassi district.
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Matera is probably most famous for the interesting cave dwellings that you will find in the historic Sassi district. The dwellings are carved into the rocks which were inhabited up until the 1960’s. The Sassi quarter was then substantially restored and tourists were made aware of the town’s unique history when Sassi was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1993. Basilicata, which once was incredibly poor, is now slowly recovering economically thanks in part to the popularity of Matera.
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Matera is located in Basilicata
Holiday in Matera
As long as you are not planning on staying in Matera, the drive is easy to complete if you are close to the area. I was on a vacation to Puglia, where I thought it was time to visit the city again, after more than 12 years since my last visit.
Parking spaces can take some skill or luck to find, but in Matera you can easily park at Parcheggio – Stazione Central/Tribunale, which was also the parking lot that I stopped at. There is around one kilometer to walk from the parking lot and down to the Sassi district. You will be walking on a long pedestrian street, where you will find several street musicians which only makes the trek all the more enjoyable.
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You really feel the atmosphere that prevailed when the caves were densely populated as you enjoy your quiet walk down the tiny streets of Matera, and that in some places could be called small paths rather than actual streets. Sassi now also offers up small cafes and restaurants for tourists, but done in such a way that it does not feel destructive to the atmosphere, just a lot more cozy and quaint.
For the best view of the Sassi, you should take a stroll along the Strada Panoramica dei Sassi, where it is possible to look down and inside the caves themselves. You can also explore the torture museum, Museo della Tortura, which dates back thousands of years.
The Museo Nazionale Ridola gives you the background to both Matera and the Sassi. The discoveries found in many Stone Age villages are on display there.
Casa grotta di Vico Solitario, is an example of the last dwelling occupied by a family. The dwelling is very well maintained and beautifully preserved.
The upper part of Matera is a considerably different type of town, where you find the main pulse on Via del Corso. From here you will experience a great evening atmosphere, as well as when you walk around the Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
It is rather impressive that the square can be close to deserted in the afternoon, for you can enjoy your capuccino for a really cheap price, and the contrast is really felt in the early evening, when the townspeople meet, talk and gesticulate as we love the Italians for. Simply beautiful!
Visiting the Sassi district was once again the goal for our own trip, as it is for most tourists visiting the city. The Sassi neighborhood is so popular these days, that you should feel incredibly lucky to own a home in this area.
The city, and Sassi in particular, saw a gigantic boost with regards to tourism as soon as it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The city experienced another boom when it became the European Capital of Culture in 2019. A feat that you can read about further up the page. An event in 2019 that the city fortunately managed successfully, which laid a strong foundation before the Corona pandemic hit in spring 2020.
It is the houses, the caves, the dwellings that with their very own stones are the main sights of Sassi. They are worth seeing and also quite fascinating, because once you get up close to the homes, it does not look like much, and in fact seem to be placed quite at random.
If this is your first visit to Matera the main experience is quite simply walking down through Sassi, where time has stood still for the last 100 years. It is definitely worth it, but so is a visit to the round Cathedral of Matera, built in the Apulian Romanesque style and which has been standing here since the 12th century.
We managed to spend our break from the several hour long walk through the crooked streets of Sassi just right, as you can see here on the right. Enjoying life and watching it unfold, with a nice cup of cappuccino. Marvelous!