Historic City UNESCO World Heritage Site
Visiting the Sassi, the cave dwellings
The cathedral and cave churches
- Just over an hour from the masseria Alchimia, there is the one destination outside Puglia that you simply cannot miss: it is Matera, the jewel of Basilicata that I highly recommend for its historical heritage and spectacular views. By car, drive to Taranto and then follow the signs for the SS 106 Jonica as far as the city exit.
- You could say that everything in Matera is unique. Starting with its ancient history, or rather prehistory! In those days they dug the rock by hand, creating caves that over time became centres of habitation. The town now preserves architectural evidence of every era: rock civilisation, Byzantine, Romanesque. And then Renaissance and Baroque, as most of the palaces and churches in the historic centre testify.
- Because of their extraordinary beauty, in 1993 ‘the Sassi di Matera’ were included by Unesco in the list of World Heritage Sites. An exceptional village, which has also earned the title of Capital of Culture in 2019.
- The historic centre is made up of two districts, the Sasso Caveoso and the Sasso Barisano. The buildings are very special because they were only built ‘in half’. In fact, almost all of them have one part made of stone blocks in full view and one part hidden and carved directly into the rock. Before you start your visit, you can leave your car on the street, where there are plenty of free spaces, or you can leave it in one of the many private car parks for extra convenience.
- The visit to the Sassi di Matera is free. The streets are lively with hotels, restaurants, bars and craft shops. What is there to see in the Sassi? Plenty: museums, hypogea, caves, rupestrian churches and farmhouses. The main square is Piazza Vittorio Veneto. From here you can admire the Sassi from one of the most beautiful belvederes. If you are lucky, you will also be accompanied by the notes of a friendly street pianist.
- The Cathedral is located in the highest part of the city. It is easily accessible on foot and houses a precious image of the Madonna della Bruna. There is an entrance fee, but mostly you need to book due to anti-coveted restrictions.
In the centre of the Sassi, there is a huge rock, easily recognisable by its iron cross. Underneath is a beautiful rock church: the Madonna dell’Idris. Of all the churches, this is one of the most beautiful in Matera, also thanks to its precious Byzantine frescoes. I recommend it. And not too far away, you will find a new viewpoint over the Sassi di Matera. The belvedere in Piazzetta Pascoli is certainly one of the most popular with photographers.
- There is so much to visit and do in Matera. You can eat in a restaurant carved into the rock. Or wander the streets in an ape calessino (a small three-wheeled vehicle) and look for the sets of your favourite films. Matera has become one of the favourite film locations for directors from all over the world. More than 80 films have been shot in the historic centre, including one of the latest James Bond films.
- And if you want to take your time, I suggest booking a private guided tour. You save time and get discounts on paid entries.