Welcome to Matera
Welcome to Matera - the city of the Sassi, dwellings carved into the rock
Located in southern eastern Italy, Matera is a very unique city that will surely impress you with its famous historical center known as Sassi (literally 'stones'). A city that lies in a small canyon eroded by the Gravina stream and whose dwellings were actually not built, but dug into the tuff rock. Some of them actually seem cave-like, and their roofs are used as foundations for other houses and as streets and stairs. A special feature that provides tourists with breathtaking strolls in typical narrow lanes and with the feeling of making a step into history, up to 30,000 years ago. The first settlements, in fact, date back from the Paleolithic Era, even though the city was allegedly founded by the Romans. Through centuries, numerous frescoed churches and other buildings related to Catholic faith developed, such as the rupestrian churches. Sassi of Matera have fascinated and inspired several writers, artists and film directors such as Mel Gibson who filmed The Passion of the Christ. In 1993, Matera's heritage was named UNESCO World Heritage site.
Information and facts
Matera offers a wide variety of shopping, from shopping centers, to haute couture boutiques, to typical artisan production. For this typical products, such as paper, wrought iron, earthenware and tuff, there are worshops to attend and from which you can bring home with you a little piece of Matera’s tradition. Just as other Italian destinations, typical products include food such as salami, meat, cheese and fine wine.
Matera's major attractions are the Sassi, the historical city center, so it is worth wandering around the city as in an open-pit museum. Numerous are the churches to visit, among which the Rupestrian churches, characterized by a fascinating combination of the charm of the stark rock and the refinement and elegance of their interior decorations, such as the Church of San Pietro Barisano. The Civita neighborhood makes up one of the oldest and most important spots with its Romanesque Cathedral, a natural fortress in the heart of the ancient city.
Matera also hosts events and festivals that are part of its historical tradition, such Madonna Della Bruna festival - on the second day of July, The New Wine and Oil Festival - in the beginning of November - during which is possible to sample many wines and olive oils made by local inhabitants, and the Tricarico Carnival, when people follow various traditions and dress up.
Wine and food
Matera boasts a wide variety of culinary specialties, so that testing at least some of them is definitely a must. Typical products include durum wheat flour bread and taralli, fresh orecchiette pasta, extra-virgin olive oil and of course wine - especially Primitivo, well-known for its excellent bouquet.
Standard time zone: UTC + 1 hour; summer UTC + 2 hours.
Matera enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot dry summers. Average temperatures are 6°C (43°F) in January and 24.5°C (76°F) in July. Rainfall is very low - about 500mm a year.
The charm of the historical center comes from the "stopped in time" atmosphere, so it is no surprise it is also conveyed by absence of cars and buses. This means you need to walk through lanes and stairs - not really advisable for people with special needs. Of course, this is just for the Sassi: the modern part of the city has its public bus service. Besides, if you come from further away, the train station of Materia is just 15-minute walk to the Sassi.