Basilicata forms the instep of Italy‘s boot and has transformed itself from one of the country’s poorest regions to one frequented by well-heeled travellers in search of history, culture and world-class food and drink.
Matera is the jewel in Basilicata’s crown, a jumble of houses and churches perched on a plateau with deep canyons either side. Thousands of years ago, people settled in caves that were dug into the walls of the canyons and a web of underground grottos appeared under the town. No longer the crowded dwellings they once were, many have been converted into luxury boutique hotels, restaurants and bars.
The town is divided into two sections, Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso; sassi means stone in Italian and refers to these clusters of stone dwellings. The best way to explore is to wander through the winding streets, discovering hidden corners, cobbled squares and dark entrances to still-abandoned caves. Matera is also home to rupestrian churches cut into the rocks. Originally built by Basilian monks fleeing persecution during the reign of the Byzantine Empire, they are now hauntingly beautiful relics filled with faded frescoes.
As with all regions in Italy, the food really is something to write home about and Matera’s cuisine is one of peasant dishes, rustic breads and varieties of pasta you never knew existed.
When to go
Visit Matera year-round, but the most popular time to see this city is in summer thanks to the weather.