Italy
Matera

Here you’ll find travel reports about Matera. Discover travel destinations in Italy of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

33 travelers at this place:

  • Day230

    Masseria Radogna, Matera (with video!)

    February 11, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    We filmed a video from the Matera Ravine, to access it go to:
    https://youtu.be/_J85LSFqN_A

    The sun shone and the temperature had risen to 21°C as we continued north from Taranto and away from the coast. We came across whole fields of vines whose supporting trellises had collapsed upon them with what we presume was the weight of the unexpected snowfall nearly a month ago. A few fields were bare, with cut vines, trelis and netting balled up at the sides.

    The hilly terrain became stony and instead of crops we saw quarries and herds of sheep and goats. We'd singled out the area around Matera as worth a visit because of the unique 'Sassi' or rock dwellings in the area. The limestone had made it ideal for homes to be hewn into the rock and thousands of people lived in them, right up until the 1960s when 20, 000 were forcibly evicted in order to improve the health of the community.

    We were making a beeline towards a stopover in the town when we saw a sign for one that seemed to be in a rural location. We took a chance and turned round to head towards it. Arriving at an information centre, we were told their campsite was just a few hundred metres up the road at €10 a night. The area looked beautiful with scrubby grass, rock and dry stone walls all around, so we decided to stay. The person at the information centre was very helpful, giving us maps and after checking we didn't suffer from vertigo, showing us a route we could walk to Matera, through the ravine.

    Arriving at the campsite, we saw it had been a smallholding, and still had a couple of polytunnels, patches of lavender, rosemary, a few old red wheelbarrows lying about and some bee hives. Light bulbs were strung between the main house and a small stone built place of worship. There was a little building with old terracotta tiles on the roof that had been converted into toilets and the site was surrounded and intersected by dry stone walls. There was a peace about the place as the birds sang from the olive trees and we were very glad we had taken that chance!

    It was nearly dusk and so too late to walk to Matera. Instead, we took a stroll down the hill to explore some nearby Sassi. For the two of us to be able to just wander in and out of the caves at our own pace and by ourselves was a brilliant way to explore. We didn't know much about how the living arrangements were set up but our imaginations were fired up!

    Taking the recommended route to Matera, we cycled until the road ended, then began to walk along the narrow path worn into the grass. There were caves close to the path and after a while the deep Matera Ravine revealed itself, its steep sides pitted with caves. Some were natural, but most were enlarged to create Sassi. As we looked over to the town atop the opposite side, there was a mergence between houses carved out of rock and the same rock being used as the bricks in the houses above.

    Along the way we met a herd of cows with their traditional bells clanging loudly. We were amazed how well they traversed the precipitous slopes and were later told by the campsite manager that this breed were only 'pretend cows' who were really goats! They were also the source of the Caciocavallo cheese we had sitting in our fridge. Apparently the BBC had filmed their annual journey to the mountains as part of its Italy Unpacked documentary.

    After crossing the rope bridge strung accross the river and ascending the steep side we explored the streets and found a restaurant with tables outside to eat lunch and watch the tourists wandering by.

    Rejuvenated, we climbed higher to a spur of rock within Matera to look at one of the Sasso churches, a series of 3 large caves with archways and columns rising to support the roof which was stained green with copper oxide. The walls had been smoothed and plaster added to them so that frescoes could be painted, many of which were crumbling and faded now. There were electric uplights set in to the floor now but we could picture the candles that would have been flickering, warming and lighting the space when it was first brought into use.

    Our final stop was one of the Casa Grotte (house caves), a kind of living Sasso museum, set up as it would have been when it was in use. It had all the furniture, kitchen units, agricultural and clothes making tools and even photos of the people who used to live there displayed as they would have been on the dressing table. It felt really homely and made us think what a wrench the forced eviction must have been for all those thousands of people.

    We returned for a peaceful night at the campsite and set off the next day with Matera on our list of places to return to. There were so many interesting things that we hadn't seen and done but Italy us a large country and if we stayed as long as we wanted at each place, we probably spend a whole year, if not longer here!
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  • Day54

    Matera

    May 31, 2017 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 66 °F

    This place.. is such a beauty. Our rough guide (thanks Richard and Nia!) describes it as one of the south's most fascinating cities. It is where Mel Gibson filmed the Passion of the Christ and you can see why it was such a fitting setting. We both wish we could have more time here as one day is definitely not enough to appreciate it all. The apartment that we are staying in is also quite a luxury! There is a four poster bed and a fab shower. Good old Airbnb! When we arrived the hostess showed us exactly where to head to and where to eat.

    According to the local leaflet, Matera is one of the oldest towns in the world, dating back around 7,000 years.. Matera has two 'Sassi', which are two districts made up of two sets of dwellings. The original cave dwellings date back to the early 18th century, the "Sasso Caveoso" and were lived in by "peasants". We visited one of these cave dwellings which were really pretty cool, also literally pretty cool as it was super warm here today.

    After WWII they moved the people into newly built dwellings which are in the second "Sasso Barisano". These were built in a sympathetic style and the overall effect looks amazing.

    Tonight we ate some regional food in a cave restaurant and it was really good and of course really filling. Luckily the lady here stocked up with tea bags, so just chilling with a cuppa, you can take the girl out of Guernsey...

    Matera is another UNESCO world heritage site so currently feeling very cultured ;D Off to Bari and the overnight ferry to Dubrovnik tomorrow, will catch up next from Croatia x
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  • Day46

    Chiesa della Madonna Delle Vergini

    October 14, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our next stop was going to be a lookout so we could get a full view of the Sassi di Matera from across the gully. However, due to poor directions, from me and the GPS, we actually turned too soon and ended up following a dirt road to the end which still gave us an great view of Matera, if it hadn't been so foggy and overcast. We had actually driven into the Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera, Parco della Murgia Materana. The park is a rocky highland littered with grottoes inhabited since the Paleolithic era, some that were transformed into rupestrian (rock-cut) churches in medieval times. It is a Unesco World Heritage site since 1993, and is also where Mel Gibson has shot the "Crucifixion" in the movie "The Passion of the Christ".

    There are about one hundred and fifty sites of worship that, in part, compose the Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera, and many are dispersed throughout the surrounding territory. The Park extends over 8000 hectares and is also the location of numerous housing allotments dating back to the Paleolithic Era.

    The church of the Madonna delle Vergini was located just a short walk from where the road ended. It is a small chapel that is the only one among the rock churches to still be open to worship and it is also the destination of a large pilgrimage on the last Sunday of May, on the occasion of the feast of the Virgin.

    It has a very simple masonry façade with five niches; in the upper part, rebuilt at the end of the last century, there is a larger niche that houses a statue of the Madonna with Child created by a local craftsman. The whole church has been carved into the rock and it would have been great to see but unfortunately it was closed.

    Wandering around the hillside and glimpsing temple remains below, walking through caves that were believed to be inhabited over 2.5 million years ago was pretty amazing. It was a brief stop but another one I enjoyed.
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  • Day46

    Parco Scultura La Palomba, Matera

    October 14, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    After another delicious breakfast of croissants and coffee we hit the road again. We had really enjoyed our stay in Altamura but were ready to see more.

    Today's weather was a bit overcast but there was also a layer of fog around that just wouldn't budge. When we arrived at Parco Scultura La Palomba it was still very foggy/misty (we really weren't sure which) at 10.45am. However that wasn't going to deter me from wandering around the quarry and climbing the hills to admire the piece of abstract sculpture on display here.

    Parco Sculture La Palomba is located in an abandoned quarry and is an open-air gallery of huge sculptures, some made from the rubble of 9/11. In 2013, a world-famous sculptor named Antonio Paradiso held an exhibit in the defunct quarry that brought new life to the space. After that closed, the quarry was transformed into an open-space sculpture park containing a permanent exhibition that showcases the artist’s various works. The park also organizes temporary exhibitions and other events.

    Probably the most intriguing works on display are those made out of 20 tons of twisted metal, steel girders, and bars that were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11. Antonio Paradiso was selected as the only Italian artist among the 9,000 artists who applied for the permission and opportunity to turn parts of the destroyed World Trade Center into art. He got the chance to personally choose which elements he used.

    La Palomba, which means “The Dove” in English and many of the pieces feature doves in one form or another. With the mist in the background the pieces were quite striking against the skyline. I enjoyed this brief stop on our journey for today.
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  • Day49

    B&B Solosud

    October 17, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    After a relaxing morning in Alberobello we said goodbye to our fabulous host, Daniela and her partner, and hit the road again. We had a wonderful stay in our Trulli hut and absolutely loved the town. It was a great three day stay but our journey must continue.

    Brad is getting very good at driving like an Italian and I’m not sure that is a good thing but he got us to our next destination in one piece. Tonight’s stop-over is at Matera, the town we viewed from the distance on our stop on the way to Alberobello. Matera is a very unique town and so is our accomodation. It is amazing, which is why it is getting its own post.

    We are staying at B&B Solosud, a Sassi house in old Matera. Sassi houses are houses dug into the calcarenitic rock, carved out of the caves and cliffs. While we have appreciated the authentic old Italian styling of some of our previous accomodation this one is styled to perfection. We are staying in a house that was most likely the home for the ancient Materians over 9000 years ago and while it still retains the charm of the original dwelling it has been tastefully renovated and decorated. And it has everything you could possibly want for an overnight stay. We just wish we were staying longer.

    The owner Paola is a lovely Italian lady who lived in Sydney for ten years many years ago and she speaks fabulous English. She made us feel very welcome and gave us heaps of tourist information and guides. It certainly makes a difference to your stay when you start your visit with great service.

    And the added bonus is the location. The view out of our front door is across the gully to the cave riddled mountains and overlooking the square below with the church and piazza. It is the perfect location for sightseeing, restaurants, or to just admire the view.

    The B&B Solosud is definitely in our top three of places we have stayed and we have stayed at some fabulous places. We would recommend this place to anyone in a heartbeat.
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  • Day56

    Matera

    January 7, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    Magical Matera

    None of us want to write this post for Matera as not one of us can think of words to string together to give an idea of what is Matera. Words escaped us when we walked out of our accommodation, turned left for 8 steps, and were faced with old Matera rising before us. We gasped, we exclaimed, and we sighed. It was like being transported back to biblical times. Indeed, Matera has been continuously occupied by humans for over 9000 years, making it the second oldest, after another in Jordan. Looking around us, it is no wonder that Matera was used in the set of many films like Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ and the latest Wonder Woman movie. We had a look at the scenes from those films, and that is exactly as we see Matera.

    I am referring to the sassi, literally meaning stones, the old district of Matera that is a series of caves carved into one side of a deep gorge. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, these caves have been adapted, redug, extended and built over, through millennia. After the Middle Ages, they were only used for animals, olive oil press and storage. It was lived in again by impoverished peasants who were forced out of their land by a failed feudal system. Living conditions were so deplorable as families of up to 11 lived together with livestock in a small damp airless cave room. In the 1950s, infant mortality on the Sassi was over 44%. Carlo Levi described it as the Inferno of Dante's Divine Comedy. Embarrassed by publicity of this plight, the Italian government relocated the population of the sassi in the 1950s. Abandoned, the sassi then fell into greater disrepair. It is now in the process of being restored and revived, even gentrified, especially after being named cultural capital of Europe for 2019.

    It was Epiphany yesterday, and the centre of the new town was thronging with tourists from other Italy. Some made their way to the sassi, but kept mainly to the few landmark Rupestrian churches and cave museums. We tried to explore further into Sassi Caveoso, the older uninhabited sassi, but much is inaccessible or blocked off.

    Standing at the many lookouts, is to stare at time, past, present and future, all at once. One can see across the gorge to Parco Murgia and it's many ancient caves. It is what the sassi would have started as all those 9000 years ago. On our side of the gorge, there is still much evidence of the old squalid caves before the government evacuation, and the promise of what will be a thriving tourist centre, especially after 2019. We can even see a building crane, most out of place amidst this ancient scene. Abandoned dingy caves neighbour renovated ones of glitzy restaurants, bed and breakfast accommodations, and souvenir shops. We will be so happy for Matera to prosper after it's tough history, and feel extremely privileged to experience it as it is now, the undiscovered gem that is magical Matera.
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  • Day57

    We made it to the other side!!!!

    January 8, 2018 in Italy ⋅ 🌬 12 °C

    In the past 3 days in Matera, the awesomes have been investigating and planning a way to get to the other side of the gorge. On Day 1, whist visiting St Peters church, 3 of us saw Ruby being led through a door at the back of the church by an old man. We quickly followed as we feared that Ruby was being abducted, but were shown to a balcony with the most magnificent view of the gorge, the Sassi, and the old caves across the gorge. The old man, the registrar of the church, then offered to drive us to the other side, but not till after the weekend as it was the Epiphany and he was busy. Without speaking a word of English, he was able to make arrangements of the time 930am on Monday to take us. We weren't sure what to make of this offer or whether we understood right.

    Kai excitedly discovered a bridge across only to find that it was closed and undergoing repairs. Spotting some people jumping the blockade to get on the bridge, we kept that plan in mind as a last resort.
    Day 2 we found a manned tourist information, (that can be quite difficult to find in small towns) but they were as helpful as a screen door on a submarine. Asking if there was a guide that could take us, the only answer was NO. Best answer was get a taxi. They had not said how we would get back once the taxi dropped us off.

    Ruby found information about a park guide that could take us on a hike. So heading to the tourist information again with the new found information to see if they could help arrange it for us, the answer was NO.

    We then found a phone number of a guide, what'sapp the guide but was not successful as they said a hike was not a good idea because it was forecasted to rain.

    We were left with jumping the blockade or going with Ruby's old man.

    Taking the chance that old man remembers our arrangement, we set off to St Peter's this morning. Lo and behold, he was there and we set off with his Italian and my Google translate.

    His name turns out to be Rocco and he works in Peter's church. Made me giggle as "upon this rock I will build my church" has rock working for it.

    He was lovely. Armed with a torch, he took us to remote, off the beaten track Rupestrian churches and abandoned grottos. Even walked us through inter connecting caves. Showed us film sets and took us to the lit Presepe that we can see from the lookout at our accommodation in the evening. He even showed us where they filmed the crucifixion in Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ.

    He was agile and fit as he led us through the mountain side and navigated rough uneven terrain. We were impressed to learn that he is 73 years of age. He was raised in the Sassi and left when he was 10 years. Like the statistics we learnt about infant mortality, he also lost 2 of his 3 siblings.

    After taking us around for 2 hours, he invited us back into the church and presented us with a translated book about the history of his church. He even offered to drive us to our next accommodation in Ostuni, 70km away, and visit the Trulli town of Alberobello along the way. We had already booked a guide for the day, and had to decline his very generous offer. When it was time to leave, with tears in his eyes, he said that he was fortunate to have met us. What a lovely,wonderful man. How blessed we are to have another angel along our journey of Italy.
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  • Day49

    Sassi Di Matera

    October 17, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    I knew Brad wasn’t looking forward to today’s destination as he said it looked like a bombed Beirut when we saw it across the gully on our way to Alberobello. And to be honest it didn’t look that inviting from the opposite side. However, we were very pleasantly surprised.

    Matera is a city on a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. It is known for its Sassi area, a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside. Allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, by the 1950s it was a source of shame for Italy, a place of poverty, malaria and high rates of infant mortality, where people lived in caves without electricity, running water or sewage. A book at the time raised awareness of the desperate conditions and about half of the 30000 population were forcibly moved by the Italian government to new homes in the modern part of the city between 1953 and 1968.

    Until the late 1980s the Sassi was still considered an area of poverty, since its dwellings were, and in most cases still are, uninhabitable and dangerous. Tourism has helped with the regeneration of the Sassi and it is becoming a unique tourist destination. The city is now amongst the fastest growing in southern Italy.

    We were staying in the Sassi area and had to park in a carpark some distance from our accommodation. This town was big enough to have a couple of paid carpark complexes, so we felt a little bit better about parking the hire car so far from our accommodation. On the advice of our host, we had packed everything we needed for our overnight stay into our backpacks and left the majority of our luggage in the boot, hoping like crazy that it would still be there in the morning. (It was)

    It was a bit of a maze trying to find our accommodation and the walk involved a lot of stair and thankfully we only had our backpacks to carry. Once we had checked into our amazing accommodation, we ventured out to explore this very unique town. It felt like we had stepped back in time, especially with quite a large area of the Sassi still abandoned. Thankfully bit by bit locals are starting to restore their abandoned family homes and what was once known as the slum, housing for the poorest of the poor, is now a tourist destination that is helping Matera become an amazing restored historic town. I just feel very lucky to be able to visit this place.

    Due to it being out of tourist season, there was not a lot open in the old area and we really didn’t feel like facing the steps back into the main town to explore up there. We were happy enough just wandering around the few stalls in the Piazza S Pietro Caveoso and admiring the amazing views across the ravine, where we were just a few days ago looking back towards Matera. Seeing the mountain side scattered with caves in which people lived and worshiped for centuries was eye-opening. It is just hard to believe that people lived in such hard to get to places.
    We visited the Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso before enjoying a light lunch at Keil, a café overlooking the square. One thing we do enjoy is having a glass of wine or beer and just sitting back watching the world around us and people watching. There are some strange ones around, that’s for sure.

    As everything shut here for riposo we took some time to relax before heading out again to check out the Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris in the late afternoon. I have to say it is so hard not to keep photographing the same thing over and over again. This town is like nothing I have every seen and it is such a feast for the eyes.

    Being that tourist season was over and a lot of places were closed, we were very limited when it came time to find somewhere for dinner. There were a couple of “posh” places that looked amazing but we hadn’t packed the correct attire, so they weren’t options, and there really wasn’t a lot more available. We were lucky enough that the owner of the café we had lunch at agreed to cook us a light meal, even though his kitchen was closing. It was a strange feeling being one of very few people out and about in the Sassi area, especially after coming from Alberobello, which was still quite busy at night time. We have noticed it was getting cooler and that means fewer people are venturing out. After a light dinner, we headed back to our cave home for an early evening as there was nothing open in the Sassi area, and as it was getting cooler the fog was rolling in. It was an amazing sight., seeing the Sassi lit up at night and covered in fog in the morning.

    I loved that we did not rush everywhere trying to see as much as possible, but I would love to visit Matera again to explore the entire town, not just our little corner of it. It is a magical place and at the top of my list of favourites from this trip.
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  • Day49

    Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso, Matera

    October 17, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We checked out the Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso, the Catholic Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The origin of the church has never been fully confirmed and while it was a religious site dating back to the 8th century it is believed that construction dates back to 1218. From the outside it is the sort of church you would want as a backdrop to your wedding photos as it is so picturesque.

    While it doesn’t feel that big inside, it does have some beautiful and unique features and works of art. Some of the features are amazing, with the most eye-catching being the painted wooden panel ceiling decorated with remarkable works by local artists. However, I am still trying to determine if Matera is playing one big April Fools Day joke on everyone. The sculptures and art work in here have a very unique style, with some making you question the history behind them. With the image behind the font looking like Jesus is getting a shoulder ride, another of babies being boiled in a pot and the sculpture on the front of the church looks like a statue of Mary with some alien children, it seems someone had a sense of humor when decorating the church. Very unique to say the least. But you know I love a bit of quirky and this is one of those.
    One way the church raises money from tourists is by having a light box installed so you can pay €1 for the lighting to be turned on for one minute so you can admire the works of art in good lighting. Another unique thing for this church.

    While the Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso isn’t full of amazing, well known art works and isn’t overly decorative it was still a great church to visit. I still can’t believe we have visited so many churches on this trip so far, as they certainly weren’t on the agenda, but I love how different they all are and the unique charm they have. They really portray the stories of the region.
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  • Day49

    Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris

    October 17, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    After our afternoon riposo, we made the walk up the many stairs to see the Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris. This is a cave church that is dug into the rock and is located on the high part of the rocky spur just up from San Pietro Caveoso. Due to continuous alterations over the centuries there is not much left intact, however its crypt is the site of important frescoes that date back to the 8th century that conservationists are trying to preserve. The unique thing with this church is that it is literally built into the mountain with the crypt being nothing more than a cave dug into the stone.

    Unfortunately, we really weren’t that impressed, having paid an entrance fee, there was no information in English and with the deterioration of the frescoes, they weren’t that impressive. Harsh, I know, and while we appreciate the history and the location, we have seen some amazing sites so far and this one is not one we would suggest to other travellers.

    In saying that, the church was unique, and the views of the city and the gully were definitely worth the walk up. We spent some time admiring them before heading back down to find somewhere for dinner.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Matera, ماتيرا, Матера, Ματέρα, Matero, ماترا, מטרה, マテーラ, მატერა, Materia, Матерæ, மாதேரா, 马泰拉

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