How long does it take to Visit Matera, the town of the “Sassi”?

It is a very common question, many people ask us how much time they need to visit Matera.  Do not take the answer for granted because Matera has much to offer its visitors: besides the Sassi, no doubt the main tourist attraction of the town, there exist a lot of reasons why you shoud stay in Matera for more than a single day. Here are some:

First of all, an in-depht visit to both Sassi districts usually needs a whole day and just then you will be able to say “Yes, I’ve visited the Sassi of Matera”.  Many tourists get to Matera and they have no idea about what the Sassi of Matera really are, they think of visiting them in 2 or 3 hours, as if the Sassi were something like a single monument.  Tourists do not know that when you say “Sassi of Matera” you mean a whole town that needs much more time to be visited and appreciated.

  • In front of the Sassi, over the canyon, you will find the Archaeological Park of the Cave Churches which is composed of calcareous-clay soil, a soft ground that has been moulded by men and streams over time.  Today the Park of the Murgia safeguards thousands of caves, tunnels, clefts, cliffs and ravines that have been used by men since the prehistory.  There are about 150 churches carved out of the tufa stone, most of them with amazing frescoes and prehistoric villages dating back to the Neolithic Age.  The Murgia is also very rich in the so-called “jazzi” (very old stone-made stockyards where cattle was kept during the migratory herding) and tufa quarries from which stones to build the Sassi have been taken.  An (almost) in-depht visit in the Park of the Murgia usually takes a whole day.
  • The “Palombaro Lungo” is located underneath Vittorio Veneto Square and it is the biggest rainwater cistern here in Matera.  When it was rediscovered, just 20 years ago, people could only visit it by boat because it was full of unused rainwater.  It is considered to be an “extraordinary” engineering work since it was built by farmers and hired men ages ago.  Besides the Palombaro, you should visit the “Matera sotterranea”, that is the underground town which lies just underneath Vittorio Veneto Square as well; the entrance of the Palombaro and the underground town is the same.
  • The Churches of the new town: I heartily recommend visiting the Church of St John Baptist, the Church of St Dominic, the Church of St Francis of Assisi, the particular Purgatory Church, the Church of Mater Domini and St Clare.
  • The Cathedral of Matera needs a separate mention.  It was built in the 13th century upon the Civita and it is the highest building of the town.  Its exterior in Apulian-Romanesque style and its luxurious interior, rich in fine ormanents, make the Dome of Matera an unavoidable stopover during your stay in the town of the Sassi.
  • The Tramontano Castle is in Aragonese style and it takes its name from the Count who wanted and ordered its building.  However, the castle remained unfinished because the Count Giancarlo Tramontano was killed by citizens during a revolt on 29th November 1514.  Now the castle has been restored and it overlooks a wide town park.
  • The National Archaeological Meuseum “Domenico Ridola” safeguarding several archaeological finds of Matera and the surroundigs which even date back to the Paleolithic Age.
  • The Crypt of the Original Sin, which many experts consider to be the “Sistine Chapel of the Cave Churches”.  It is on of the most important cave site in Southern Italy.
  • The Regional Nature Reserve “San Giuliano” which extends across the area around the dam having the same name, just a few kilometres from Matera.  It is a wonderful protected green area and it is aimed at wildlife preserve.
  • Timmari Hill, just a few kilometres far from Matera too, is a plateau with an abundance of lush green vegetation and second homes where citizens use to spend their weekends and summer holidays.  Moreover, Timmari wood also safeguards an important necropolis dating back to the 4th century b.C.

It is really hard to visit everything you should, but now you have a check list about all the most important places to visit in Matera.  So please, once you’ve been in all these places, just come back here again and tell me what you liked more, which places you would recommend to your friends or which other place(s) you would add to this list.  Come on guys, let’s draw up a rich list of all the tourist sites in Matera.

3 Comments

  1. Hi, I wonder if you can help me. I have booked a trip to Italy in February 2016. We arrive a Bari airport at 20.30 on Saturday 13th feb. I have booked one night at Bari and my intention was to make our way to Matera on Sunday 14th by train, where we are staying for 2 nights at a cave hotel. Then we will return to Bari on Tuesday to cat an evening flight home. The problem that I have is that I can’t find out for sure if the trains, or buses, we don’t mind which, run on Sunday’s. If they don’t we may have to rethink the stay in Bari on the Saturday night and go straight to Matera and stay there but as our flight dies not arrive until 20.30 in the evening I am not sure if we would be able to get there. Could you please help with any information for Sunday or
    late Saturday travel? Any information would be most welcome. Usually my husband sorts out the travel arrangements, being a train driver himself, but this is a surprise trip for our 25th wedding anniversary, all he knows is that we are going to Italy, so getting to Matera is down to me! We usually hire a car while on trips and this would be an option but I am told that there is not much parking and it is very expensive and also that there is
    restricted driving so I don’t think it would be wise in this case but it may be the only option if I can not get there by public transport. Please help if you can.
    Caroline

    • @Caroline: hello Caroline, thanks for visiting our blog. On Sunday there are no trains from Bari to Matera. Anyway, there are buses running from Bari to Matera bus station on Sunday. Here you are the link where you can find timetables and fares:
      http://ferrovieappulolucane.it/en/lines/timetables-and-fares/
      Here you can also buy the tickets online:
      http://ferrovieappulolucane.it/ricerca-corse/
      Search for the bus to “Matera C.le (P.zza Matteotti)” and the bus stop in Bari is in “Via Capruzzi”, which is just close to the “Bari Centrale” railway station.
      If you need more help do not hesitate to contact me.
      Enjoy your stay in Matera

  2. Hi, I wonder if you can help me. I have booked a trip to Italy in February 2016. We arrive a Bari airport at 20.30 on Saturday 13th feb. I have booked one night at Bari and my intention was to make our way to Matera on Sunday 14th by train, where we are staying for 2 nights at a cave hotel. Then we will return to Bari on Tuesday to catch an evening flight home. The problem that I have is that I can’t find out for sure if the trains, or buses, we don’t mind which, run on Sunday’s. If they don’t we may have to rethink the stay in Bari on the Saturday night and go straight to Matera and stay there but as our flight does not arrive until 20.30 in the evening I am not sure if we would be able to get there. Could you please help with any information for Sunday or
    late Saturday travel? Any information would be most welcome. Usually my husband sorts out the travel arrangements, being a train driver himself, but this is a surprise trip for our 25th wedding anniversary, all he knows is that we are going to Italy, so getting to Matera is down to me! We usually hire a car while on trips and this would be an option but I am told that there is not much parking and it is very expensive and also that there is
    restricted driving so I don’t think it would be wise in this case but it may be the only option if I can not get there by public transport. Please help if you can.
    Caroline

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