Matera, Italy – to walk on the rooftops of the ancient stone city

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Our first encounter with South Italian eating habits and the best ice cream ever

The city of Matera, South Italy, has been existing there for thousands of years. It has returned to its glory recently and it was selected for a European Capital of culture 2019 together with Plovdiv, Bulgaria. That makes me really happy because I believe that both cities have a lot to offer to visitors and this is a wonderful time more people to hear about them and visit them. So now I am going to tell you the story of my visit to Matera in 2014.

Maria and me at roofs of Matera
Maria and me at the roofs of Matera
For us Matera is a very romantic and special place. It was our first time in Italy and our first night on Italian soil. We might have been a little unexperienced but this is not so important. Matera will stay in our hearts as our first memory of our official family life.

City of Matera, Basilicata (Sassi di Matera)

Me and my wife headed to Matera after our short visit to Alberobello on the first day of our honeymoon in Italy. We loved driving through the South Italian countryside. We were again among the fields with yellow flowers, olive trees, there were no more trulli but it was still beautiful. From Alberobello to Matera the distance is around 70km. So about one hour later we reached the city. At first we didn’t like the traffic jams but when we saw the old stone town we totally forgot about them.

The old town of Matera
The old town of Matera

Going down towards Sassi di Matera (Stones of Matera) we were wondering how we will find our hotel. Everywhere there were stone buildings looking almost the same and only one central street between the two hills. Everything else was stairs and more stairs. Luckily our hotel was on the street and we were able to go there by car.

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Матера 40.667439, 16.610343

Where to stay in Matera

Despite Matera was calling us for a walk around, we first needed to find our hotel, which proved to be one of the best places we have ever visited. B&B La Casa Nei Sassi is located near the central street of old Matera and offers a spacious and comfortable room, together with a wonderful host. Simona, the host, was extremely nice to us, gave us directions and served amazing breakfast in the morning. So we would definitely recommend it to anyone.

B&B La Casa Nei Sassi is located near the central street of old Matera
B&B La Casa Nei Sassi is located near the central street of old Matera

So, Simona helped us park our car, explained us some important things about Matera and offered us travel guides for the city. The only thing we had to do was to have great time in this beautiful Italian city. But Simona was not so happy because while helping us she had forgot to take her keys and appeared locked outside her house.

The breakfast
The breakfast

Sassi di Matera

But let’s go back to Matera and its beautiful old part – Sassi di Matera (Stones of Matera). The old city is composed of two main districts – Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. Sasso Caveoso is the older one and the less preserved. It is believed that the first inhabitants of this area settled here 9000 years ago. They lived in caves carved in the rocks and some of these ancient homes are still present today.

Sasso Barisano is the newer part where most of the functioning buildings are located.

Church in Matera
Church in Matera

It is difficult to explain how beautiful Matera is. With its stony buildings everywhere it looks like Jerusalem, so it is not a surprise that the old town has been chosen for background of “The Passion of the Christ” directed by Mel Gibson. Some of the houses are built directly in the rocks. And some of the churches are real caves.

The house s in Matera
The houses in Matera

This is Sasso Barisano, our footsteps echo on the stones. The Italians greet us with “Buona Giornata”. Above it all stands the silhouette of the Duomo (Duomo is the biggest cathedral in every Italian city). Enjoying the cathedral and the amazing surrounding houses it is easy to step not on the stone lane that we did follow but on the roof of the house nearby.

The rainbow above Matera
The rainbow above Matera

Dinner in Matera – pizza time

Tired from this emotional walk in the old town we decided to taste the famous Italian pizza. However, it was our first night in Italy and we were not very familiar with the style of dining of Sount Italians. Most of the restaurants are open for dinner after 7-8 PM and you could rarely have pizza before 8 PM. Withouth knowing these details, we thought that there were no working restaurants in the Sassi so we headed to the new city to find a place to eat.

The night streets of Matera
The night streets of Matera

Meanwhile, it started raining again, the view, with a great rainbow and wet streets became very picturesque so I stopped thinking about food and the result you will see…

Matera at night

It was a great day full of quiet walks and amazing places. The sun is down and the old town is like an abandoned city. The streets and lanes are deserted and a little bit scary.

In the morning, as early as sunrise, we resumed our walks. This time we passed through Sasso Caveoso, the oldest part of the city. It was again stony and full of tourists during the day.

In the morning, as early as sunrise, we resumed our walks. This time we passed through Sasso Caveoso, the oldest part of the city. It was again stony and full of tourists during the day.

Something we really enjoyed there was the ice cream, A friend recommended tge best ice cream shop in town – Gelida Voglia and it proved a really good place to refreshen.

Morning street
Morning street

More about Matera

Matera was built on the edge of a canyon and features impressive urban and architectural works. The city had an impressive water collection and distribution system, consisting of huge reservoirs and aqueducts.

View of the canyon
View of the canyon
View of Matera
View of Matera

Hundreds of years ago the city was a flourishing settlement but in the 20th century it changed a lot. The Sassi were considered a poor and lesser developed area and the life moved to the higher area. In the 50s the authorites had to displace a huge part of the population of the Sassi because of a malaria outbreak. As late as the 1980s the local authorities decided to revive the Sassi and turn them into a tourist attraction. We are happy this happened because the Sassi are a really impressive place and it would be a pity to be lost.

Matera
Matera

A bit later we were already in our car, heading to our next destinations from our honeymoon – Napoli and Sicily. Read about them in our other posts:

A walk in the old part of Matera
A walk in the old part of Matera
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Some advises and ideas for travelling through South Italy by car from Bulgaria (valid for May which is a kind of low season)

  • In Italy only few people speak English
  • In South Italy the roads are good, some of highways are paid.
  • In Alberobello there is a paid parking zone but also a free zone. Parking is easy. (2014)
  • In Matera there is a free parking zone with just a few spots but parking is still possible (2014)

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