My Story of Matera, Italy
It appears that this area of Italy has a thing for quirky dwellings, as while Alberobello is the town of trulli, Matera is a cave town. Literally. A large portion of this town has been built into the side of hills, dug into rock.
You’ll find plenty of cave churches and houses too and you’ll see the hills opposite the town are also holey… with caves.
But, first things first, a bit about how we got there. We woke up terribly early, walked to the train station, took the train to the airport and from there a bus that went to Matera.
TIP TIME: You can buy the bus tickets online, but pay close attention to the bus schedule and train schedule and expect some long waits in between. Suffice it to say getting to Matera from Bari using public transport can be a bit tricky.
The bus left us at the main bus and train station in Matera. From there, we made a short stop at the Info Point where we got a map. After that, we stopped for gelato and mini cakes. Before reaching the rocky neighbourhoods, Matera looks very much like a regular Italian town. The main pedestrian street, lined with shops and cafes, takes you to a square where it all begins. As it was a Saturday, we even caught a glimpse of a bride walking up the steps of a cathedral, then marvelled at a weird-looking ballerina sculpture.
Another church featured mainly skulls on its outer walls, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Slowly, we reached a part of town where we could get a panoramic view of the entire Matera and then entered a cave that used to be a church.
TIP TIME: If you choose to visit this part of Italy in the summer, know that it’s very hot. The sun is burning and in Matera, there aren’t many places to get cover, except for the cool caves. So, take advantage of that and enter as many as you can. Alternatively, get plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and some sort of head coverage. You’ll need it.
After walking around the whole town – that is, the touristic part, we visited a subterranean cistern, called Palombaro Lungo. It was the place where some of the town’s drinking water used to be stored. And it provided a cool shelter from the blistering heat outside.
We then tried to find something to eat and finally decided on a small café, where we got a small bite, coffee, and some fruity iced tea, and spent a couple of relaxing hours.
TIP TIME: As everywhere in Italy, restaurants close between lunch and dinner, with a few exceptions, so be careful how you plan your meals to sync with their schedule. Our eating habits get pretty hectic when on holiday so we sometimes end up spending a long time finding a place that’s open at 3 pm for example.
So, what to do in Matera:
– Walk around Sasso Caveoso and Sassi di Matera and visit cave dwellings, stop to take pictures of some of the best panoramic views. Pay close attention, as some of the caves hold art exhibits worth at least a glance.
– If you have more time, go for a hike across the river to the other hills and the caves found there. These caves also hold churches and chapels
– Visit Tramontano Castle
– Visit Palombaro Lungo (the cistern) and all the other small museum, such as the Ipogeo Materasum
– Make a stop in Piazza Vittorio Veneto at Bar Caffe Tripoli for an espresso and a snack.
And that concludes my brief story of Matera. Next stop: Polignano a Mare.