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What to see in Matera: Useful tips for visiting the beautiful city of the Sassi

  • Travel tips
Best tours and activities to visit the Sassi of Matera Best tours and activities to visit the Sassi of Matera from 10€ Compare Offers

Save Matera as one of your next destinations, because it will be one of the most beautiful trips ever made in your life! Location of great film masterpieces - from "Gospel according to Matthew" by Pasolini to "The Passion" by Mel Gibson, Matera is a wonderful treasure to discover, unimaginable in its beauty.

After a dark past, here is the redemption of a city that will make many people change their mind: follow our advice and get ready to live the European Capital of Culture 2019.

  1. When to go to Matera
    Matera at Christmas - Matera in summer
  2. Visit Matera in 1 day
    Guided tours in Matera
  3. Family travel in Matera
    Travel in Matera with children
  4. Food and drink in Matera
    Local meals and restaurants
  5. Where to sleep in Matera
    Sleeping in a "Sasso": accomodations and pet-friendly hotels
  6. How to get to Matera
    Transfer from Bari Airport
  7. Matera and surroundings
    Matera and the sea, Murgia Materana Park, Montescaglioso, Craco, San Pietro Caveoso area, Castelmezzano

When to go to Matera and how long to stay there

Probably the best time of the year to visit Matera is the spring season, especially in the Easter week when you can also attend the Passion of Christ representation. 

Matera at Christmas

Another top time to visit the city is Christmas holidays, when the Sassi host the wonderful Living Nativity. Winter in Matera may be cold, the city is windy but the Christmas atmosphere makes it much more bearable.

Weekend of Immaculate in Matera: the pros and cons

If you are oriented to the Christmas holidays, book for the weekend of Immaculate (December 8th), when generally the Living Nativity opens to the public: even if it gets cold, the route is beautiful and you're going to walk for miles in an atmosphere full of charm and magic. The only flaw is that the event attracts every year a disproportionate number of tourists with consequent queues at the ticket office, traffic jams and often packed sites.

Is it worth visiting Matera in summer?

Avoid August, especially because of the torrid and unbearable heat that has hit Italy in recent years. September is ok, when temperatures fall significantly on average compared to August.

In any case, unless you want to do a tour de force that also includes the central hours of the day, don't be too worried to visit Matera in summer on condition that, as for any place to visit in this period, you should never miss in your equipment a cap and a bottle of fresh water.

In many areas the site is completely devoid of shade and on hot days you may be suffering a bit from the hot sun: in summer, therefore, the visit is certainly recommended in the late afternoon to avoid the heat and to appreciate the colours of the sunset. You will be walking a lot, the narrow streets built between the rocks are sometimes impervious and slippery, so do wear comfortable shoes!

Visit Matera in 1 day: Things to do and guided tours

If you can spend just one day visiting Matera, to optimise your visit you could arrive in the city in the second part of the morning and leave it in the late afternoon/early evening to be able to have on overview of the entire place.

Matera vicoli centro storicoEvery corner, every street or alley of the city offers an interesting opportunity to take pictures to remember, so we always recommend to keep your camera with you.

Where to do the best shot of the stones of Matera? Probably the most impressive view is offered by the lookout of Murgia Timone: if you can wait for the sunset to start shooting, the result is guaranteed, you will have a postcard-like photo!

If you planned to stay in Matera for several days, alternate the walks in the Sassi with the internal visit of several attractions and maybe extend the visit to the surroundings of the city that also offer much to see.

Guided tours in Matera: walks among the Sassi and cooking lessons

If you prefer to take part to a private tour instead of travelling on your own, you will be spoilt for choice among the many tours offered. There are simple walking tours among the Sassi or trips of one or more days that also embrace other areas of southern Italy: from the wonderful cities of Apulia, like Bari and Alberobello to the warm area of Salento with Lecce, Ostuni and Gallipoli as well as the enchanting Sorrento peninsula.

If you love cooking, then you can also book experiences that combine a visit to Matera with gastronomic lessons, culinary working classes and visits to the farmers' market that will allow you to learn about the local culture through the goodness of its typical products.


Matera with the family: how accessible is it?

For those travelling with small children or with a reduced mobility person, the area of the Sassi of Matera could create considerable inconveniences.

In the main streets of the city, from which you can still enjoy a beautiful view, you should not encounter difficulties with strollers; the situation changes in the internal routes, more difficult and impervious with unpaved roads, where the stroller is definitely not recommended: in some places there are stairs to climb and descend so you need to plan alternative solutions such as baby carriers or just holding children in your arms.

In this regard, in the area you will find pharmacies that sell everything for children and in some cases allow you to rent baby carriers or backpacks shoulder to get around the city with children.

If you can not make long walks but you have a great desire to discover the beauty of Matera, please consider that in the Sassi there are Ape Cars which allow you to admire the landscape comfortably seated, or the sightseeing bus that takes you around different places.


Where to eat in Matera: restaurants, trattorias and bars

There are all sorts of eateries in the Sassi, where you can eat on the fly or sit at the table.

Matera ristorante tipicoFrom restaurants to breweries, from trattorias to impromptu bars for catering, you'll be spoilt for choice. There are some very picturesque places right inside the Sassi, they are absolutely recommended if you are in high season and want to sit outside.

One tip: book in advance, otherwise you may have to spend hours waiting!

If you prefer to dine with a fresh ice cream, on the main street in the center of Matera you will find many good ice cream shops.

  • One last tip: buy bread from one of the wood-fired ovens in Matera and take it home with you, it will be the best souvenir of your holiday.

Where to sleep in Matera: In or outside the "Sassi"?

Sleeping in a "Sasso" is the right ending to an experience that lasted a whole day. Look for a B&B or a hotel located directly in the Sassi, there are very charming accommodations available.

Is sleeping in a "Sasso" recommended?

According to many travelers, this experience might have some negative implications: it is 100% true that sleeping in the Sassi is an unforgettable experience, but don't forget the "topic" suitcases: it is not the maximum of comfort to reach your accomodation, especially if the car cannot be parked nearby.

Also consider that these accommodations are on average more expensive than those just outside the Sassi and that usually these rooms are dug into the rock so in some cases humid, so if you choose this option, equip yourself properly.

The alternative is therefore to stay just outside the Sassi, where you can choose from many different accommodation options.

Do you travel with pets?

No problem, in Matera there are many facilities where you can stay with your four-legged friends.

How to get to Matera: public trasport and private transfers

Matera is a city in the region of Basilicata, Italy. There are several ways to get to Matera using public transport or private transfers, such as the shuttle by appointment from Bari Airport and Station to Matera, Metaponto Station and Ferrandina Station.

Another valid option is to choose private bus lines or even Flixbus; usually buses from the airport to Matera are not so crowded as to require advance booking but, in any case, it is always better to buy the ticket online.

Getting to the city by train? Matera is not connected to the network of the State Railways but is served by the narrow-gauge railways F.A.L. (Ferrovie Appulo Lucane), which connect it to BARI with travel time ranging from one hour to an hour and a half.

Alternatively, you can book the combination "bus + train" Trenitalia or Italo, to be booked on their respective official websites.

If you travel by plane, a good solution may be to land at Bari Palese airport and from there reach Matera by direct bus or by renting a car.

Transfer from Bari airport by private taxi

To find out the price of the trip, fill in the form below with the airport of arrival or departure and destination where you are going or want to be picked up (e.g. Hotel address). Complete with your flight details and number of passengers and click on Search to see the price and block the cost of the trip by private transfer or shared shuttle.

  • Never accept transfers from drivers approaching you at airports or stations. Always use a licensed taxi!

How to get on with the ZTL area in the city centre? Where to park?

Matera is a city to be visited only and exclusively on foot, the center is a ZTL (restricted traffic area) but there are parking zones outside the ZTL. If you travel by car, you must therefore park nearby but do not worry as parking is not a big problem: you can rely on paid parking areas (the costs are low) or, you can try free parking by driving to areas a little further from the center, slightly extending your walk.

If you stay in the ZTL area, there may be the possibility of parking within the area by simply informing the host or maybe transit at least for unloading and loading luggages (in both cases check in advance the possibility with the owner of the structure to avoid unpleasant fines).

Matera and surroundings

The Sassi of Matera are the most famous and visited attraction in the area, but it must be said that the region of Basilicata is beautiful and there is so much to see around the city, it's all about knowing how to organise in advance.

Matera and the sea

Mare vicino MarateaIf you planned to visit Matera in summer and organized a week holiday, you can spend two days in the city and stop for two or three days by the seaside, extending on the Ionian Sea.

For example, in Ginosa Marina, less than an hour's drive from Matera, where you will find a wide beach and clean sea, a cute town with all the services and several bathing areas for young people, an ideal destination if you travel with youngsters.

Alternatively you can reach Castellaneta Marina, a bit quieter than Marina di Ginosa and with turquoise and crystal sea, perfect for a holiday with children at an early age.

Instead, if you prefer to explore the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, consider Maratea, a little further away (2:50h): a real paradise!

Murgia Materana Park

The Park of Murgia Materana is a park with a view of the Sassi of Matera, which is known for its rocky churches and frescoed caves; it is an excellent place for excursions and trekking in the rocky complex that can be seen from the city. There are several paths that lead to the discovery of this wild territory.

  • You can get there from Matera in just over half an hour by car or bus (Line 14, Line 15 and Line 7 that stop in Via Lucana near the park).

Matera di notte illuminataAt sunset there is a fantastic light and if you have the patience to wait for the evening, you will have a beautiful view of Matera with the lighting on.

We strongly recommend the excursion in the park of the Murgia if you want to take sensational photos: from there you have a wide view of the entire area of the Sassi.

Going in the evening, however, can be dangerous because the path of the park is characterised by overhangs, the path is dark and completely surrounded by nature.For this reason we do not recommend to venture on your own in the evening, but absolutely rely on a guided tour, also considering that some places are only accessible if accompanied by guides who have the keys of the gates to access the different sites.

The total lack of protection and the tiring route, make the experience unsuitable for those traveling with children and especially for people with reduced mobility.


Locations and experiences not to be missed in Basilicata

If you have time in your holiday, make a detour to one of these beautiful locations:

Montescaglioso and the Benedictine Abbey

Montescaglioso, one of the most beautiful views of Basilicata in the area of Materano, with its splendid Benedictine Abbey. The town is located a few kilometers from Matera, south of the Park of Murgia. Go there by car, a few hairpin bends and free and easy parking. Alternatively, use the buses that depart from the city center and stop directly on the spot.

Craco, the ghost town

Another experience not to be missed in Basilicata is a visit to Craco, the ghost town about 60 km from Matera, an impressive film location in the Italian movie "Basilicata coast to coast".

Craco BasilicataThe guided tour is very interesting (to be booked at the municipal media library), equipped with a helmet among the ruins of a village now uninhabited and collapsed for insipienza; the tour costs about 10 € and lasts an hour and a half, but it is absolutely worth it.

Craco is now an open-air museum and the tour allows you to visit the city and understand its history; climb up at sunset, when the stones and gullies are tinged with gold.

  • Not to be missed is a visit to the Norman Tower, which can be reached by taking a road that climbs up the rock, through curves carved into the mountain.

Tibetan Bridge: Suspended between history and nature

The Tibetan Bridge is a route not to be missed, a special experience to be faced with comfortable clothing and spirit of adventure. It can be reached from path 406, near the car park in the San Pietro Caveoso area: the bridge allows you to cross the Gravina stream and connects the Sassi to the park of the rock churches and the viewpoint of Murgia Timone.

Arm yourself with energy, the downhill and especially the uphill route is not the most comfortable, and follow the path 406: after half an hour you will find yourself face to face with the bridge.

It's a pleasant experience surrounded by nature, but here are a few tips:

  • Choose a day with favourable weather conditions;
  • Avoid reaching the bridge if it rains or in conditions of poor visibility: the danger to get to the bridge could increase greatly.
  • The Tibetan bridge can also be crossed with children or if you travel with a pet: if they are adventurous, they will arrive before you on the other side of the bridge!
  • Be well informed before arranging an excursion as the path leading to the bridge is not always accessible due to maintenance.

Flight of the Angel Zipwire (Volo dell’Angelo) from Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa

Free-flying three hundred meters above ground and enjoying the landscape from above is a unique experience which gives you a feeling of absolute freedom. The Flight of the Angel starts from Castelmezzano, 45 minutes from Matera, up to the town of Pietrapertosa.

Arrivo a Pietrapertosa da CastelmezzanoTo get to the starting point from Castelmezzano, you have to cover a steep path of about twenty to thirty minutes on foot, so you have to be patient and have strong legs. Upon your arrival in Pietrapertosa, you will find photos of your flight, which you can buy in multimedia format.

You can buy tickets directly on the spot.

If you go there by car, you can park in a hourly car parking or along the road; we recommend you to arrive at least one hour before the launch time, considering the 5/10 minutes of shuttle and the 20 minutes of climbing to the point where the flight starts.

Of course you won't find any toilets or bars at the top, so take the opportunity to use the toilets before the climb and bring a bottle of water with you (you have the option of carrying a backpack during the flight).

Have you ever been to Matera? How much you enjoyed it?
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