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- 21 Oct 2020, 3 nights
- 2 Guests
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Matera, the 2019 European City of Culture, is a city of two halves. Perched on top of a deep ravine are pretty honey-coloured buildings that wouldn't look out of place in a fairy tale. Below, clinging to the steep slope, you'll find unique cave dwellings called sassi. They were given a new lease of life in the 1980s and are now a quirky setting for artisan workshops, laid-back bars and tempting restaurants. Stroll the steep, labyrinthine streets, immerse yourself in 7,000 years of history and treat yourself to some traditional Italian antipasti in this still-off-the-beaten-track gem.
Get up close and personal with the city's history by staying in a sassi hostel, complete with arched ceilings and rough stone walls. You can also stay in a 19th-century farmhouse or, if you prefer your amenities a touch more 20th-century, there's a place with a private room and en-suite. Chat with fellow travellers at a Matera hostel with an outdoor terrace. Even caves have free Wi-Fi these days and some Matera hostels have free breakfasts too.
Matera's UNESCO-listed old town, the Sassi di Matera, is where you'll likely spend most of your time. It's divided into two neighbourhoods: Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. The first of these has more basic cave dwellings, including churches, while the latter has traditional building-like facades with caves dug into the rock behind them. Above the ravine is the Civita district, a 16th-century city centre filled with museums, galleries and restaurants serving traditionally indulgent Italian meals.
Top of your list of things to do will probably be exploring the cave districts. You can take in the atmosphere by wandering the streets or taking a guided tour to learn about the area's history. Visit the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario to see how an underground family home would have looked in the 18th century. Combining a striking work of architecture and intriguing sculptures, MUSMA is a gallery set in a 17th-century cave palace. Cool off with a beer or glass of wine in one of the sassi district's bars for an unusual way to start your evening.
Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport is the nearest to Matera, and from there you can take a bus for 90 minutes to Matera Central Station. The town's geography means you're best on foot once you arrive. No buses go to the sassi districts, so you can walk or take a taxi – you'll find them on Matteotti Square.