Matera Tours

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Opening hours

Sassi di Matera is open all the time and you are free to walk around the site and discover the attractions for yourself. Another option is to take an organized tour. These usually last from 1 or 2 hours to all day tours. There are dozens of guided tours to choose from and each tour is priced to your requirements.

How to get there

Train- Matera is connected to the city of Bari on a local regional railway line. The train is operated by FAL who also operate buses between the same two cities.

Bus- Italian national bus companies provide good connections to and from several cities across Italy and beyond.

Plane- the closest airport is Bari-Palese, a distance of approximately 60 km.

Car- from Bari, follow the SS99 road in the direction of Altamura- Matera. From the opposite coast from Salerno take the road to Potenza then along the SS407 to Metaponto and Basentana until directions for Matera can be followed.

FAQ

If I want to stay in the area overnight what hotels etc are available?
In the modern city of Matera there are plenty of hotels to choose from. If it appeals to you, then you might want to stay the night in one of the caves that have been converted into hotels. Then you are right in the heart of the ancient dwellings and perfectly positioned for exploring the local attractions.
Why were the caves abandoned?
The area that people were living in was known for its poverty and disease. During the 1950s it was considered a national disgrace that hundreds of families were still living in such poor conditions so a law was passed to move all the families to new accommodation.
When did the caves become an attraction for visitors to the area?
During the 190s the caves were seen as a reminder of the regions past and a few former residents began moving back into the caves to renovate their former properties. In 1993 the ancient site was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of ‘the most outstanding and intact troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region.’ Since that time it has slowly gained in popularity as an attraction with a few hotels, B&Bs and restaurants.
Is it worth taking a tour or just discovering the site on your own?
If you are just passing through and have a casual interest then a wander around the sassi may be enough for you. However, to fully appreciate the concept of what you are seeing there then taking a guided tour is the best option.
Apart from the caves what is there to see?
You can visit a reconstruction of one of the caves as to how they were in the 1950s to fully appreciate the conditions people were living in at that time. There are also museums and churches where you can learn about the history of this unique area. To fully learn about what Matera has to offer a stay of at least two nights is recommended.

Must Know

Matera has been used as a film location
The movie, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ filmed some of its scenes in and around Matera. These scenes included the sassi and the gorge below.
It is not only people that live in Sassi de Matera
While several cave buildings have been given a new lease of life, if you explore some of the lesser used lanes, alleyways and stairways you may discover the local wildlife that moved in while the buildings were empty. Some of the closed off and still abandoned buildings are now home to birds of prey such as the Lesser Kestrel (Falco Naumanni).
Churches carved into the rock
Throughout this part of southern Italy there are several churches cut deep into the rock. They were mostly created by Basilian monks fleeing persecution from the Byzantine Empire during the 8th and 9th centuries. Inside the cave churches are faded frescoes. These churches in Matera are kept locked and can only be opened by tour guides. Some are open to visitors after a ticket is purchased.
Timing your visit
It is important to time your visit. While several attractions are always open to visitors, others are not. Some churches are only open at weekends, particularly so in the winter. Some will require you to book your place in advance. During the busier period of summer many sites will close for up to four hours every afternoon because it is simply too hot to walk around the site during that time of day.
Travelling on a Sunday
If you are relying on public transport to get to and from Matera then travel on a Sunday or public holiday is best avoided. There are no train services from Bari on a these days and what bus services are operating will be running a reduced service.
How bad were the conditions for people living there?
The conditions that people lived in were quite shocking. Everyone generally lived in one room. Animals were also kept in the back of the cave and it was likely that chickens would live under the families bed (often one large communal bed), with people in the family sleeping crammed in together.

Places Nearby

San Pietro Caveoso
One of Matera’s nicest churches is not carved out of the rock but stands in a picturesque spot. San Pietro Caveoso sits on a rocky outcrop above the ravine. This small building has a welcoming atmosphere and is decorated with simple motifs of folk-art of friendly saints.
Madonna dell’Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone
Two other churches worth a visit are Madonna dell’Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone. These two churches sit in the crags high up the side of the cliff-face and are connected by a tunnel. This tunnel adds to their mystery with the cave like feel of this route. Entry is by way of a combined ticket for both churches and they are decorated with Byzantine-style wall paintings.
Museums in the area
The main museum in Matera is the Museo Nationale Ridola. This museum is closed on Monday mornings and contains exhibits from prehistory through to the Roman age. There is a small entrance fee to visit this museum. The Palazzo Lanfranchi is an art museum with medieval and regional art to the Basilicata region. Here you will find lots of religious paintings by painters originating from the south of Italy as well as more modern 20th century works of art by Carlo Levi, who is regarded as an important part of the regions modern history through his art. Sculptures can be viewed at the MUSMA in Matera, with the focus on works from the 19th century onwards. This museum is closed on Monday’s and during the afternoons in winter.