Matera: an insider’s guide to the city

10 May 2023
Written by The Italy Insider
Insider's Guide

Why visit Matera? Well, Matera is unique as it is one of the few places to have entirely retained its authenticity. Since the prehistoric times, the inhabitants used caves, quarries, ravines of the rocks of the Murgia – soft and golden stone – to dig their homes. Houses and stables, churches and palaces have been built in the walls of the gullies and connected to each other by stairs, roads, alleys, ascents and descents. It’s a world that seems to grow in the stone and from the stone to expand into an exterior so unique that it has been selected as a location for about 20 movies – only to mention the latest: No time to die by James Bond. From sleeping in renovated caves, savouring a meal on a terrace overlooking the ancient landscapes and walking off-the-beaten-track to discover the heritage of Matera – these reasons alone are enough to book your trip to this destination. But in this guide we will give you a few more…

Fresh peperoncini at the Matera Food Market to make Peperone Crusco
Matera at Sunrise

where to SLEEP


Palazzo del Duca Matera

Located in the ‘Civita’, the highest and most noble part of the Sassi di Matera, Palazzo del Duca lives again today as a hotel and preserves intact the charm and originality of a period house. It has four suites – two with a private heated swimming pool, one with a private terrace and one created in a cave – and five rooms including deluxe and junior suites. Each room is different, all pleasant and charming. The young owners have managed to personalise them gracefully, as have the common areas. The restaurant room is very special and evocative, with stone walls still preserving marine fossils, telling the story of Matera’s unique nature and history. The restaurant also has outdoor tables with an unforgettable view of the panorama. WEBSITE


Where to sleep in Matera
One of the rooms at Corte San Pietro

Fernando and Marisa Ponte, owners of Corte San Pietro, have created a small hotel full of harmony in Matera. In the Sassi district, some abandoned and disused houses dating back to the 1600s have been restored and reinvented by them and with the collaboration of Daniela Amoroso, an architect from Matera, to become Albergo Diffuso. Just 15 rooms that have grace and character. A courtyard that is the heart of the hotel, the place where it is pleasant to enjoy a break. 8 cisterns, evidence of the ancient daily life of the Sassi, reinterpreted both as artistic installations and as places for meditation and yoga. A breakfast room where every element is cared for, chosen, thought out. Taste and culture are the tools that guided the selection. A final welcoming detail: on the door of each room, a plaque with the name of the room, but also that of the guest occupying it at the time. WEBSITE


Masseria Fontana di Vite
One of the rooms at Masseria Fontana di Vite

Only 7 km from Matera, on a hillside, Masseria Fontana di Vite set in 200 hectares of property, has boundless views. An unfortified farmhouse, without city walls, it has panoramic terraces, large spaces set up as a garden, a swimming pool, a family chapel (no longer consecrated) where Austen Lee’s Artistic Installation ‘the flowers of the sky’ is a suspended ceiling. The courtyard is almost a village square, and in the interior, high vaulted ceilings and spaces follow one another fluidly: the reception, the bar, the room with fireplace, the restaurant. 7 rooms in the Masseria furnished with family antiques and 12 cool, cosy rooms in the ‘lamielle’, small houses with pinion roofs typical of the Basilicata region, built in the 19th century to house tobacco processors. WEBSITE


Bedroom at Palazzo Viceconte

In Matera, Palazzo Viceconte, a few steps from Piazza del Duomo, is housed in an aristocratic dwelling built in the 16th century and later enlarged until the 18th century. Then in more recent times, the building experienced neglect and decay and suffered tampering and mutilation. In 1994, it was purchased by the current owners, the Viceconte family, and restored to its original state with careful restoration. From the eighteenth-century courtyard, a monumental staircase leads to the halls of the piano nobile, an evocative flight of rooms that you walk through to reach the last room where breakfast is served. Guests have at their disposal 2 suites, 5 junior suites, 7 classic rooms, overlooking the beautiful old courtyard or the panorama of the Sassi. WEBSITE


The view from the window of a room at Palazzo Gattini

Facing the Cathedral, Palazzo Gattini, a historic residence that belonged from the 15th century until 1892 to the Conti Gattini, the oldest noble family in Matera, has been transformed into a 5-star L hotel with 20 rooms: 5 suites (one of which has a private pool), 3 junior suites, 12 deluxe rooms. The long and painstaking restoration that preserved the building’s historical-architectural value was entrusted to architect and interior designer Ettore Mocchetti, who chose ‘Mazzaro’, the Gravina stone with cream nuances in harmony with the limestone that dominates the Matera landscape, as the material. The style of the rooms is a contamination of past and contemporary, the result is emphasis and glamour, historical charm and luxury hospitality. Inside the hotel, the Le Bubbole restaurant with its unforgettable terrace offers cuisine that is both local and international. WEBSITE


Quarry Resort

From the restoration of Palazzo Zicari, a noble residence dating back to 1500, comes Quarry Resort – 5 rooms, 5 suites, and three junior suites, Chapel and the magnificent Lounge Terrace Restaurant Garden overlooking the Sasso Caveoso and the Murgia Materana Archaeological Park. Each room is different, but in all of them the careful restoration has made the uniqueness of the architectural structure the protagonist. The local stone, moulded over the centuries, gives evocative character to the rooms: courtyards and courtyards, staircases, round arches and vaulted ceilings combine history and narrative in a tale of aristocratic and popular life. The exterior is enlivened by unexpected spaces with relaxation corners and small gardens with citrus trees and laurel hedges. WEBSITE

what to see


The 14th-15th century Church of Santa Maria De Idris stands at the top of the rocky spur of Montirone (or Monterrone), near San Pietro Caveoso. Its lucky position offers a unique panorama over the city and the Gravina.


The Crypt of Original Sin was the cultic site of a Benedictine rock monastery from the Longobard period. This space is famous for its curious and unique depiction of original sin: here a fig, instead of an apple, is the protagonist of the fatal mistake.

what to do

Matera boasts an incredible art scene from the Original Sin fresco to contemporary Art Collectives.


The MIB – Museo Immersivo della Bruna – located in the heart of the Sasso Barisano, is a multimedia journey into the patronal feast through legends, images, sounds, stories. In the MIB it is possible to walk through the Bruna Feast from the inside, enjoying its moments through captivating films, and thus entering into a magical harmony with Matera and its people. WEBSITE


The MUSMA is the only cave museum in the world and the most important Italian museum entirely dedicated to sculpture. It illustrates the history of Italian and international sculpture from the end of the 19th century to the present day with a rich body of works: sculptures, ceramics, medals, jewellery, drawings, graphic works and artists’ books. The museum also hosts several exhibitions, including the Arnaldo Pomodoro exhibition until 7 January 2024. 

Santa Lucia alle Malve
Sala della Caccia at MUSMA Ph. Credits Pierangelo Laterza


In the exhibition spaces of the Ridola museum you can find precious artefacts representing important archaeological evidence found in and around Matera. The museum houses the biggest fossil whale ever discovered, La Balena Giuliana, which was found in 2006 in the countryside. WEBSITE


Palazzo Lanfranchi In a beautiful seventeenth-century building, it is one of the two headquarters of the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art. Lucania ’61, an extraordinary painting in six panels by Carlo Levi, is exhibited on the ground floor. It is 18.52 meters long and 3.20 high, larger than Guernica, Picasso’s masterpiece. The work is a historical reportage of Basilicata, which portrays 153 real characters, including Rocco Scotellaro to whom it is dedicated. WEBSITE


The MOOM, Matera Olive Oil Museum, is located in the Sassi di Matera, in Vico 1° Casalnuovo, and has been built in an ancient rock oil mill, demonstrating the historical functionality of the cave and its integration into the urban landscape. The oil mill is composed of several rooms, each one dedicated to a particular phase of the oil production process, which guide the visitor through an immersive artisanal experience. WEBSITE


For centuries, the Vicinato al Pozzo was a social and networking space that encapsulated the life of an entire urban grouping in its courtyard. It was a kind of small square, a common gathering point for the life that took place between the dwellings of the Sassi. It was a site for meeting, talking, chatting and gossiping; and today it is a legacy that bears witness to an ancient way of life. WEBSITE


The Casa di Ortega project, realised by the Fondazione Zètema in Matera, was conceived with the dual intent of documenting the presence in Matera of the great Spanish artist Josè Ortega and of promoting the rediscovery and appreciation of the local craft tradition. The exhibition areas host the impressive works realised by Ortega in the 1970s, during his stay in Matera. WEBSITE


History enthusiasts will love Casa Noha, a space dedicated to testimonies, with videos telling the story of Matera, starting with Lucania 61, and explaining well the transition between 1952, the Sassi depopulation law, 1986, the redevelopment law. WESITE


The TAM – Tower Art Museum is a contemporary art museum located in the centre of Matera, inside an imposing medieval tower. Its exhibition spaces, divided between the central Via Ridola and the Capone Tower (XII), host national and international artists who are called upon to produce temporary exhibitions. WEBSITE

Parco della Murgia Materana
Matera by night



In the heart of the Parco della Murgia Materana, the Belvedere is a very exciting panoramic point from which it is possible to enjoy a complete and extremely suggestive view of the Sassi di Matera. A position that allows you to appreciate all the elements that distinguish the area: you can devote yourself to admiring and contemplating the landscape, you can decide to visit the nearby rock churches, or you can venture out to search for and discover the entrenched Neolithic village of Murgia Timone.



The Elisa&Janna project was born from the encounter between a goldsmith artist and a gemmologist. The two brilliant creative minds work by combining reused metals and semi-precious stones. Their deep sense of respect for nature leads them to create refined jewellery inspired by the Sassi of Matera, but also pomegranates and small olives. WEBSITE


The bread stamp is one of the symbols of the pastoral art of the Matera Murgia. Until the 1950s, housewives used to knead bread at home and deliver it to the bakers’ boys for baking, not before stamping each loaf to distinguish it from those of other families. Today, artisan xy still works to produce this small, finished object that speaks of tradition. WEBSITE


Geppetto, located in the central Piazza del Sedile at the foot of Matera Cathedral, is a craft workshop. It is a place of elaboration, production and sale of cuccù, the famous terracotta whistles widespread in the Murgia area, but also of other valuable pieces such as plates and small sculptures. WEBSITE


Eufemismi is the name of Eufemia Caserta’s craft workshop in the historical centre of Matera. In this small workshop, Eufemia pursues her aesthetic research through the use of materials such as bolts and washers, nets and hydraulic pipes, ropes and hooks, leftovers and scraps from textile companies, ‘poor’ materials that in her hands become precious contemporary ornaments to be worn daily or used as original ornaments in one’s home. WEBSITE

where to EAT

Basilicata is made up of such varied landscapes that they could be the compendium of Italian geography and this is expressed in an infinite variety of gastronomic products. As well as an array of vegetables, legumes, fruits and cheeses one of the most renowned products from the territory is bread. The symbol of Matera, which perfectly sums up the products that Basilicata offers: from the purity of spring water to the quality of Lucanian wheat up to the ancient cooking methods that creates a crunchy crust leaving the inside soft and fluffy. Where should you go in Matera to discover the best regional delicacies?



Matera Collection was created to provide travellers with an experience in independent, unique and characteristic hotels in and around Matera. Some of the best restaurants in Matera are located in these ancient and precious palaces, such as Palazzo Gattini and Palazzo del Duca.


Where to eat in Matera
Cuisine at Vitantonio Lombardo. Ph. Credits Marco Varoli

A cave in the Rione Sassi left to its natural charm on purpose, designed by architect Alessandro Tortorelli and desired by Vitantonio, who chose Matera inspired by a place where cavities and convexities of stone can truly give rise to timeless taste experiences. WEBSITE


An exceptional quality restaurant situated in the intimate atmosphere of the caves where tradition and history are at the core of the cuisine. Expect your southern flavours infused with a little land and a little sea accompanied by freshly baked hot Matera bread and extra virgin olive oil (just be careful to not fill up too much on bread!). WEBSITE


Botega Culinaria is a bistro with a refined taste, an aesthetic reminiscent of literary cafés and at the same time a heartfelt Lucanian matrix.  Here, the typical product is the starting point of a culinary journey aimed at introducing the culinary excellence of the Lucanian land. WEBSITE


Inside La Gattabuia

The cuisine of La Gattabuia is based on Italian and especially Lucanian gastronomic excellence. Each raw material is chosen with respect for the seasonality and producers, enhancing the fruits that each territory offers, with the aim of creating a virtuous network that starts from the land and ends up meeting our guests. WEBSITE


Where to eat in Matera
Cuisine at Dimora Ulmo

It is in this city, housed in a completely restored Palazzo in the heart of the Sassi cavea, that the Restaurant Dimora Ulmo combines art, design and high gastronomy. Ristorante Dimora Ulmo is the project of a young and professional team animated by genius and passion. With Chefs Michele Castelli and Virginia Caravita, both with an experience gained in Massimo Bottura’s kitchens, together with Nico Andrisani and Francesco Russo to give Dimora Ulmo their home, a special place where you can breathe elegance, taste, exclusivity, but also the warmth of a welcome. The view over the city from the terrace is breathtaking. WEBSITE


L’Arturo wants to satisfy all lovers of good food. That is why they select a wide range of quality local products: from cold cuts to cheeses, from taralli to pasta, from preserves to wines. The choice of food and wine specialities is based on their experience: we personally know the companies and places where the products come to life because they have always been our suppliers. WEBSITE


The bread of Matera, Pane di Matera, has the shape of a croissant and is produced with the exclusive use of durum wheat semolina. cooking in the large wood oven


If you only have time for a quick snack, you must try the focaccia from Panificio Perrone. The products of this bakery are those of the Matera tradition: the bread, taralli, biscuits and friselle; and they only use selected raw materials from the short supply chain from fine Lucanian cultivations. WEBSITE


If you walk down Matera’s main street, let the smells guide you and you will find this small bakery very popular, even among the locals, for its superlative pizzas and focaccias with tomato, courgette or potato. Bread, biscuits and taralli are also good. 




Monkey Drink House, located in the Sassi of Matera just a stone’s throw from the cathedral, is a modern bar that offers, in a young and refined environment, American bar specialising in gin. wide selection of whiskies, craft beers and local wines. In addition to the wide range of gin and whisky, it is possible to taste a wide range of Lucanian and local wines, as well as fantastic cocktails both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, spirits, herbal teas, extracts and drinks in general. WEBSITE


Area8 is a multi-functional space housing a communication and cinema production agency by day, café and theatre by night. It’s a place for creative people in the heart of the sassi of matera, where people from all over the world come to eat, drink, share and explore. WEBSITE


ZipaCafé is a cocktail bar born with the prospect of making ‘Madonna dell’Idris’ come alive for tourists, with a totally new air: colours in full vintage style and reminiscent of the old town, candles, lanterns, friendliness. From the little terrace below the entrance to the restaurant, there is a breathtaking view from which to admire the stones in all their splendour. Here, cocktails are made with selected and sought-after materials and there is a wide range of wines from all over the world, with flavours that marry the history that transpires from every single stone present. WEBSITE


The Quarry Resort – historical residence Palazzo Zicari, is located in the heart of the Sassi of Matera and is one of the most representative buildings of the Civita, overlooking the Sasso Caveoso. Here you can enjoy an exclusive aperitif with a unique view of the Matera landscape.



Genuineness, purity and tradition in every wine: These are the three cornerstones of the philosophy of Giuseppe and Carlo Iacovazzo. On their wine-growing estates, located in Basilicata in the province of Matera, they cultivate prized grape varieties rich in tradition, from which they produce wines of different types with a unique and unmistakable aroma.


Want to treat your palate with an exquisite experience? Try Battifarano’s product: a ruby-coloured wine, the fascinating result of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Primitivo and Merlot grapes, which recounts the strength of those Aragonese garrisons for which the family’s estate was built in the 16th century. WEBSITE


For four generations, the Dragone family’s wines have been an expression of typical Matera territory, but also of love, passion, history and tradition of a silent and generous land, of humble and dignified people. The Dragone winery has always been aware and proud of being an important part of the food and wine offerings of this city. WEBSITE



Picnic Matera
Picnic at Masseria Fontana di Vite among the olive groves
Picnic at Masseria Fontana di Vite
Picnic at Masseria Fontana di Vite

A picnic at the Masseria Fontana di Vite is the best opportunity to indulge in a unique, bucolic experience. This farmhouse, located on a hill overlooking Matera, is surrounded by golden fields of wheat and a four-hectare olive grove and welcomes guests in a splendid bucolic setting to offer an unforgettable moment in an island of tranquillity. WEBSITE


For a true insider’s experience, it is worth taking the time to visit Palazzo Bernardini, where Napoleon Bonaparte’s cousin slept, and where the lovely Mrs Annarosa Bernardini gives cooking lessons. WEBSITE



1. Cathedral of the Madonna della Bruna and Sant’Eustachio. On the highest spur of the Civita. It overlooks the city and the Sasso Barisano.

2. Parco della Murgia Materana, Belvedere (Contrada Murgia Timone), view of the Sassi. With poetic nativity scene effect at sunset.

3. From the Musma (Museum of Contemporary Sculpture), Via San Giacomo. View of the Church of San Pietro Caveoso and the cliff where the Church of Santa Maria de Idris is excavated 

4. Belvedere Luigi Verricchio (painter). From Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a small terrace with a view of the Civita and the Sassi. In the distance, the Cathedral. 

5. Church of San Vito alla Murgia. Contrada Murgia Timone, Parco Murgia Materana. Overlooking the Gravina valley, with a view of the city. Pier Paolo Pasolini used the nearby cistern as Christ’s tomb in ‘Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo’ (1964).

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