A city in Italy inhabited since paleolithic times, Matera is located in the Basilicata region of Italy in the driest and historically the poorest area of mainland Italy. Often referred to as “la Città Sotterranea” — or “The Subterranean City,” the oldest parts of the city are carved directly into the calcareous rock hill, with homes, businesses and even churches consisting of caves sculpted out of the rocky hillside.
The land around Matera is fairly inhospitable, consisting of dry and rugged landscapes with little-to-no access to water, and receiving little rainfall throughout the year. This rugged landscape and the fact that it is located on a sheer rock cliff above a deep ravine made it a refuge for the poorer peasants to protect themselves from invading armies and those looking to conquer and plunder. The fact that this dry region offered very few trees for making lumber was likely the reason that the oldest parts of the city are carved directly into the rock, which also hides the town from being seen from all angles.
The Sassi of Matera, Italy
The “Old Town” of Matera is referred to as the “Sassi,” and has dwellings, caves and grottos that date back as far as the third century BC. Cavedwellers have called this come for nearly 18 centuries, and the caves are still home to a few families, though many of the buildings in Sassi have converted to pubs, restaurants and hotels.
The Labyrinths and Alleyways of Matera, Italy
The architecture and style of the city is simple and utilitarian, yet detailed and concise. Elevation and walkways are delicately played with to fit as many people into the city as possible, while remaining comfortable. Stairways and alleys are cut directly out of the stone with twists and turns connecting the various homes and streets. In some areas, the pathway that you are walking on is actually the roof of someone’s home. The maze of streets makes Matera one of the best cities in Italy for walking and sightseeing, as you can literally spend days meandering and exploring the various nooks and crannies of the town.
The Church of Santa Maria d’Idris
Located high upon the hill in the Sassi, the Church of Santa Maria d’Idris is dedicated to water — as it has been sparse in the area for centuries. Churchgoers would attend the church to pray for rain to come, or offer their appreciation for rain and good fortune that had been bestowed upon them. The church is open to guests that would like to see it, and has impressive reliefs and paintings from centuries ago.
Church of San Giovanni Battista
Another of the many religious centers in Matera, the church of San Giovanni Battista was completed in 1233 AD and is for much of its history was considered the crown jewel of Matera. Today the building has been incorporated into part of the Ospedale just next door.
The Matera Cathedral
The modern crown jewel of Matera, the building is styled in the Apulian Romanesque style, and was completed in the year 1270. At nearly 800 years old, the church is in near-pristine condition and still holds Roman Catholic services.
The Landscape of Basilicata
Not only is the city of Matera beautiful to view and explore, but the countryside surrounding the city is also beautiful and perfect for hiking and light climbing.
Dining In Matera, Italy
By-far, our favorite restaurant in Matera, Italy is Osteria Pico. Chef Enza Leo strives to create delicious dishes served in a warm and friendly, traditional Italian setting. Below are some of our favorite dishes:
Zuppa di Fagioli
Insalata di Zucchine
Zuppa di Fave e Cicorie
Tortino di Patate
Medaglioni di Patate
Ravioli di Ceci
Ravioli di Farro
Ferricelli ai Pistacchi
Capocollo di Maiale
Visit Osteria Pico For Yourself:
Via Fiorentini, 42, 75100
Matera MT, Italy
+39 0835 240424