Matera is one of the most interesting, particular and memorable tourist destinations in Italy. Located in the remote southern region of Basilicata (also called Lucania), is less known by foreign travellers, it is a town famous for its extensive cave-dwelling districts, the sassi. Curious visitors can accommodate in caves, wander the lanes alongside the picturesque cave-filled cliffs, and learn the history of this fascinating place.
The caves of Matera had been inhabited for centuries; some humble and some smarter residences, but by the early twentieth-century the area was a by-word for poverty. Until the 1950s hundreds of families were still living crowded into cave-houses here. The squalor and malaria-ridden conditions became a national scandal and finally the cave residents were moved - by law - to modern buildings on the new part of the city above. By the 1980s the abandoned caves of Matera were no longer scandalous, but fascinating reminders of the past. A few rather more well-to-do residents moved back and renovated old cave houses. In 1993 the town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site, for being "the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem". And ever since, Matera has become steadily more popular as an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination. More and more old cave-houses are being converted into comfortable modern dwellings, into hotels, B&Bs and restaurants. You can take guided tours of the sassi and visit historic reconstructions of cave life. Matera was the one of the filming locations for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, with shots showing the sassi and the gorge below.
The way to start your visit to Matera is to have a walk around the sassi districts, looking at the cramped town above its ravine, and the tumbling grey stone facades, which appear to be houses but turn out to be caves. If you are just passing through, with only a casual interest, this plus a visit to a reconstructed cave-dwelling will suffice for a taste of the town. But to make the most of a trip to Matera, and to understand what you're seeing, it really helps to have some context. After an initial independent exploration, we'd suggest taking a guided tour, reading a guidebook, visiting a cave-life reconstruction and one of the local museums. To 'see' Matera thoroughly, and to get an idea of the living conditions for the former cave-dwellers, you should spend at least a couple of days in the town. For those who want to absorb more of the history and unique atmosphere, to explore the quieter spots and visit museums and churches, we'd recommend staying at least three nights in Matera.
One of the most precious treasures of Matera and this part of southern Italy, are the churches cut into the rock of hillsides and ravines. These rock, or rupestrian churches - chiese rupestri - were mostly created by Basilian monks who were fleeing the iconoclastic persecutions in the Byzantine Empire during the eighth and ninth centuries. The caves often contain faded frescoes in the Byzantine style. Many in Matera are kept locked, but some can be opened by tour guides, and several are open to the public with a combined ticket. San Pietro Caveoso is built in a picturesque spot on a rocky spur above the ravine, and is a charming small building with a welcoming atmosphere, simple folk-art decorations and some friendly saints. Up in the crags above are two of the chiese rupestri, Madonna dell'Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone, connected by a tunnel and visited with the combined ticket. They are good ones to visit, for as well as the truly cave-like feel, burrowed into a little rocky summit, there are some charming Byzantine-style wall-paintings.
Matera has been awarded the prestigious title of the 2019 European Capital of Culture in Italy by Commission of European Union.
Destination Wedding in Matera is the perfect answer to couples that are looking for an exclusive, spectacular, not touristic Italian destination, where history and culture is everywhere around. If you wish a catholic ceremony in Matera you can choose among the many stunning churches located within the city and nearby. Civil (legally binding) weddings are celebrated in a very particular site, authorized by the town hall authorities, an ancient monastery now renewed and enhanced, located in the heart of Sassi district. The ceremony can be held in the wonderful indoor hall or in the outdoor court, with breathtaking view of the particular houses all around. Very particular reception can be arranged in Matera, since many restaurants and hotels are located in suggestive caves, where fantastic lighting systems enhance the natural beauty of these places and create an atmosphere that can’t be easily told by words! We look forward to plan your wedding and unforgettable stay in Matera!