Let yourself be enchanted by the wonders of the City of Stones: discover with us the 10 best things to do in Matera!
Which are the best things to do in Matera? At first glance, the Lucanian capital seems like something straight out of a dream, a timid vision in a fairy-tale world.
Yet beyond the splendor of the glimpse and the wonder of its surroundings, Matera offers an incredible wealth of things to do that will allow you to delve into its culture and everyday life.
The poignant charm of its narrow streets, houses torn from the rock, caves and moonscapes that surround it is just the beginning of a magnificent journey, discovering the culture and traditions of a city that is more alive than ever.
Discover with us the best things you can't miss doing in beautiful Matera.
The 10 best things to do in Matera
When it was named European Capital of Culture in 2019, the splendor of this city went around the world.
At last, this amazing place, which seems to rest on the bare rock like a bright nativity scene, finally had the opportunity to show the world its immense heritage. And we are talking about a wealth that has been protected by UNESCO since 1993.
What we propose in this article is a new way of discovering the capital of Lucania, so that you can fully immerse yourself in its resounding vitality.
Here are the 10 best things to do in beautiful Matera!
10. The guided tour of the charming historical center
Where to start your visit to the city? So charming and so mysterious, we certainly suggest you start with a guided tour of the center.
You can wander through the streets of the center, among the iconic districts of Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, learning about the long history that has run through them, but you can also get inside the most symbolic places. Indeed, can you say you have really seen this city if you have never entered a rock church?
They trace the history of the Lucanian capital, taking you all the way back to the threshold of the early Middle Ages, when churches were carved into the rock. Over time, however, they took on different uses and became places of daily life: houses, animal and tool shelters.
As well as churches, cave houses are also part of the heritage of Matera. Inside them, everyday life is consumed and, inside some of them, you will be able to see everyday objects and period furnishings.
9. Things to do in Matera: the entrance to the marvelous Church of San Giovanni Battista
One of the most beautiful churches of the city and, indeed, one of the finest examples of Apulian Romanesque style is undoubtedly the Church of San Giovanni Battista. A true architectural jewel dating back to the early 13th century, it features an unquestionably elegant entrance portal embellished with plant motifs and carved heads.
Inside, work to remove the 18th-century stucco has brought back the sobriety and elegance of the Middle Ages, enhanced by the whiteness of the limestone.
Entering this amazing church certainly represents one of the best things to do in Matera.
8. The Convent of Sant'Agostino for an exceptional viewpoint
The complex of Sant'Agostino, consisting of the convent and church, is located in Sasso Barisano. The imposing building, perched on the rock rising sheer from the Murgia, dates back to the last years of the 16th century.
Beneath the convent, there is an ancient hypogeum, dedicated to St. Guglielmo da Vicenza, the destination of a long pilgrimage even before it was recognized as a Crypt.
It is a particularly fascinating place in this city, where the gaze can get lost in the endless surrounding panorama.
7. The visit to the underground oil mill
That these lands produce oil of superlative quality is a well-known fact. In fact, among the things to do in Matera, we suggest that you taste its deliciousness during your dinners, lunches, tastings and aperitifs in town.
Or, you can decide to visit Moom, the museum dedicated to olive oil. During the guided tour, you can learn more about the history of this exceptional product and, the museum's crowning achievement, you can have access to the underground olive press, finally reopened after a long cycle of restoration.
At the end of your tour, you cannot miss a delicious oil tasting!
6. The Balcony of Matera
They call it just that, the Balcony of Matera. It is a rather small square dedicated to the poet Giovanni Pascoli, who kicked off his teaching career in this very town.
This place is one of the most touristy in the city, and yet, coming here is one of the most important things to do in Matera.
The grandeur of the panorama stretching out at your feet, mixed with the feeling of amazement at observing the talent and industriousness of the local people in carving their city out the heart of the earth, will be one of the most unforgettable feelings you will take with you from your trip to Basilicata.
5. Things to do in and around Matera: a day in Matera's Murgia Park
As well as the historic center, Matera's surroundings are also rich in things to do. In fact, telling you what the Murgia Materana Park, established in 1990, truly holds, requires more than a few words.
We could tell you that it is a barren and fascinating territory, where the land sinks swallowed by spectacular ravines. However, it is also the place to observe Paleolithic caves, villages dating back to the Neolithic period and fascinating rock churches, and to understand more deeply the close link between man and nature.
And, therefore, between trekking, walks and picturesque excursions, you will be able to observe the so-called "architecture in the negative": it means that, instead of adding and building, it removes matter to shape extraordinary constructions in the bowels of the ground.
4. The entrance to a typical house of the City of Stones
Getting inside a house in Matera is certainly one of the best things to do on a trip here.
Casa Noha, in Sasso Caveoso, represents one of the most worthy examples, a place capable of conveying the richness of the past, but also of everyday life.
At one time it belonged to the noble Noha family, hence the name, but was then donated to FAI in 2004 with the intention of truly showcasing the local way of life.
Thanks to recent restoration work and the inclusion within a grand multimedia project, visitors to this house can enter a 16th-century aristocratic palace and make their way through the courtyard, rooms and splendid vaulted ceilings.
3. A glimpse of the Tramontano Castle
This Aragonese-style castle was once located outside the city. It, in fact, had the function of watching over Matera from a very privileged position, right on top of the hill.
It is so named because the castle was erected in the 16th century at the behest of Count Tramontano, a native of Naples and a fervent supporter of the Aragonese. Unfortunately, he was never on good terms with the local population, so much so that he was assassinated on Christmas Day 1514.
The count's story and the unfinished nature of the building make the castle a place of great fascination.
Currently the mighty building is closed, but you can visit it for free from the outside. The spectacular view from up here will repay your efforts!
2. The Museum that celebrates the Feast of July 2nd in Matera
To be in this city on July 2nd is to participate in one of the most significant and picturesque moments of the local calendar.
For more than 600 years, in fact, the Festa della Bruna has been staged, which begins as early as the morning with a spectacular procession led by a papier-mâché float carrying the statue of the Madonna della Bruna.
Inside the MIB Museum, you will have the opportunity to discover more about this extraordinary folkloric moment and the art of papier-mâché even if you are not in town on this very day! You will be able to participate in a multimedia tour accompanied by images, videos and sounds, and even see firsthand a real life-sized triumphal float!
1. A visit to the art exhibition inside a tuff quarry.
How to define the La Palomba Sculpture Park? It is located within the Rock Churches Archaeological Park and is an art exhibition carved out of a tuffaceous quarry.
It spreads for a good 6 hectares in a place that has seen the passage of man for millennia. First a Paleolithic site and Neolithic village, then a quarry from which tuff was extracted.
In this "place of anthropological art", as its founder, artist Antonio Paradiso, likes to call it, the artist's works are permanently exhibited, without constraints of time, day or price. Today, the park's collection is continually injected with new works and proposals by local artists, giving a renewed vitality to the environment.
What other things would you like to do on a trip to Matera?
We hope that this ideal itinerary among things to do in Matera has inspired you in planning your next trip!
For our part, we can only suggest that you start your tour from what we mentioned at the beginning. How better to get to know the city than by taking advantage of the experience and knowledge of a local guide in love with his land?