Posted by: debrakolkka | July 20, 2010

Matera – Basilicata

We went to Matera on a public holiday, which was a big mistake.  I think all of Italy chose to visit that day.  We eventually found a car park and made our way to the Strada Panoramica dei Sassi, where the view of this amazing city made the bother worthwhile.  This is one of the most fascinating cities you will see in Italy.

Sassi refers to the cave dwellings Matera is famous for.  These dwellings have been carved out of the edge of the cliffs that form the sides of the town.  From the 8th to the 13th centuries, these cave houses probably provided refuge for the monks from the Byzantine empire.

Matera - old and new

The caves were taken over by peasants in the 15th century and cave dwelling went on for centuries.  By the 18th century some buildings had become quite grand mansions and convents. However, by the 1950s and 1960s the Sassi became overtaken by squalor and terrible poverty.  Disease was rife and the inhabitants were forcibly removed and rehoused.   The buildings remained and the Sassi area was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

looking over the Sassi

Now the Sassi have again become houses, shops and restaurants and on the day we were there were swarming with people.  We wandered around, shoulder to shoulder with all the others marvelling at this incredible place.  We eventually found a table at a restaurant for lunch and had quite a good meal, despite the restaurant’s resources being stretched to the limit.

when the crowds had gone

 By the time we ventured out again, everyone had gone and we were almost alone on the streets.  We were able to have a better look, but decided we need to go back to stay for a few days to get a better feel for the place.  There seemed to be several good hotels or B&Bs to choose from so will will definitely return.

Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ in Matera, but we won’t hold that against the town.


  1. What an eyeopening post! I had never heard of Matera before! 😮 I love travelling via armchair 🙂

  2. This is a post I am just catching up on! We were going to go here during my 10 weeks in Italy but Sicily won us over leaving no time! And Sicily cannot be rushed. There are so many interesting places in Italy we could spend a lifetime there and not see it all. Glad to read of your experience! Cheers. MLT

    • Matera was fascinating and needs another visit. There is enough to keep us busy in Italy for the rest of our lives. We haven’t been to Sicily yet.

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