Understanding Matera’s History

Matera’s history dates back to the Paleolithic era, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Sassi, carved into limestone rocks, served as dwellings for the region’s early inhabitants. Over the centuries, Matera has undergone transformations, from a troglodyte settlement to a thriving medieval town and, in more recent times, a symbol of cultural resilience and revitalization.

To fully appreciate Matera’s unique character, take the time to delve into its history. Consider visiting the Museo della Civiltà Contadina, which provides insights into the rural life of the region, and the Casa Noha, where multimedia exhibits tell the story of Matera’s evolution.

Accommodation in the Sassi

One of the most enchanting aspects of Matera is the opportunity to stay in a traditional cave dwelling. Numerous hotels, guesthouses, and even rental apartments are nestled within the Sassi, offering a truly immersive experience. However, keep in mind that these accommodations range from rustic to luxurious, so choose one that aligns with your preferences and budget.

It’s advisable to book your accommodation well in advance, especially if you plan to visit during peak tourist seasons. Staying in the Sassi allows you to wander through the narrow, winding streets at different times of the day, soaking in the magical atmosphere when the city is bathed in the warm glow of sunrise or sunset.

Exploring the Sassi Districts

Matera is divided into two main Sassi districts: Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. Each district has its own distinct character, with Sasso Barisano boasting a more urban feel and Sasso Caveoso offering a glimpse into the city’s ancient past.

Wander through the labyrinthine streets, discovering hidden churches, quaint courtyards, and panoramic viewpoints. Make sure to visit the Caveoso district to explore the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, a preserved cave dwelling that provides a glimpse into the daily life of Matera’s former inhabitants.

Cultural Highlights

Matera is a treasure trove of cultural and historical landmarks. The city is home to numerous churches and monasteries, each with its own unique architecture and artistic treasures. The Matera Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Basilica Pontificia di Maria Santissima della Bruna, is a must-visit, showcasing a blend of Romanesque and Apulian Gothic styles.

Additionally, Matera is host to several cultural events throughout the year, including the Festa della Bruna, a religious celebration dedicated to the city’s patron saint. Check the local calendar to see if any festivals or events coincide with your visit, adding an extra layer of authenticity to your experience.

Culinary Delights

Italian cuisine is celebrated worldwide, and Matera is no exception. The city’s culinary scene is characterized by a blend of traditional Basilicata flavors and modern influences. Indulge in local specialties such as orecchiette pasta, lucanica sausage, and peperoni cruschi (crispy red peppers).

Matera’s restaurants often pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients, and dining in the Sassi provides an intimate and picturesque setting. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of Aglianico, a red wine produced in the region, to enhance your gastronomic experience.

Respecting the Environment

As Matera gains popularity among travelers, it’s crucial to be mindful of the city’s fragile ecosystem. Many of the structures, especially in the Sassi, are carved directly into the limestone, requiring preservation efforts. Follow designated paths, refrain from touching delicate surfaces, and adhere to any guidelines provided by local authorities.

Furthermore, waste management is a critical concern in Matera. Dispose of your litter responsibly, and consider participating in initiatives that promote sustainable tourism practices. By respecting the environment, you contribute to the long-term preservation of Matera’s cultural heritage.

Matera, with its ancient charm and cultural significance, offers a journey back in time. Understanding the city’s history, choosing accommodation wisely, exploring the Sassi districts, immersing yourself in cultural highlights, savoring local cuisine, and respecting the environment are key elements to ensure a fulfilling and responsible visit. By embracing Matera’s unique atmosphere, you’ll not only create lasting memories but also contribute to the preservation of this extraordinary destination.