Matera is a destination sometimes forgotten by the guides although its Sassi (the ancient cave dwellings in the old center of the town) are the first site of Southern Italy included among the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
However, the relative isolation of Matera is also an advantage, an excuse for a trip dedicated to eco-sustainability, authenticity of flavors and originality of the local products.
Visit the City of Stone
First stopover is, of course, the old town, which you could explore following a guided tour: you will see a part of the Caveoso district, rock churches and the Civita district, you will be impressed by Sassi dwellings because they were almost “prehistoric” and yet used until the Fifties by Matera inhabitants.
After a long restoration of these houses, these were inhabited by engineers and surveyors who have dealt with the requalification; now a house located at the Sassi became a luxury, in fact, the value of the apartments reached € 4,000 per square meter.
Our advice is to book this itinerary in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset light and take wonderful pictures; Matera will remain in your heart.
Secret Matera: the Crypt of the Original Sin
This hidden gem has been described by some historians as “the Sistine Chapel of cave art”, is a crypt with frescoes which was found in Gravina di Picciano, not far from Matera, is unique in its kind and we think is a must see during a stay in the City of Stone.
Thanks to the restoration carried out in 2000, today you can see the frescoes in the Crypt of the Original Sin dated back to VIII-IX century that depicts the early chapters of Genesis, a masterpiece that today we are be able to see closely; it is surprising to find that this crypt was once used as a sheepfold.
The green oasis of San Giuliano
Hikers can explore the natural protected area of San Giuliano around the lake with the same name, where you can see many species of waterfowl.
It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Basilicata, the visits for groups are organized by the WWF, advance booking is required.
An oddity: on the shores of the lake was found the fossil skeleton of a whale dated back to the Pleistocene, the skeleton is 27 meters long!
Wood and design, the contemporary side of Matera
About shopping we prefer to recommend handmade products with modern touches, because Matera is not only a city of the past but a place where it is possible to rebuild the technology according to ancient rituals.
Let’s talk about the artisanal shop of Massimo Casiello, craftsman specialized in wood turning, who realizes traditional objects (such as bread stamps once used by shepherds) and innovative collections such as fountain pens, USB flash drives, perfume atomizers, all wooden, a series of refined and exclusive products, beautiful gifts that replace the more traditional souvenirs.
The workshop of Casiello is also an art gallery and is located in Via Ridola n.40 www.massimocasiello.it
Traditional cuisine in a restaurant carved into rock
The last stage is dedicated to food, very tasty and abundant as throughout Southern Italy.
A place where you can taste the typical menu of Matera is the Francesca Restaurant, carved into the rock, very romantic and intimate, the venue where to enjoy dishes like cavatelli with broccoli, fava beans and chicory purée and “cruschi” peppers, meaning dried at the sun, a peculiarity of Lucania that you’ll remember for the crunchiness and the slightly bitter aftertaste.
Matera, in conclusion, is a perfect destination for a Spring weekend, a natural movie set, not surprisingly often starred in films such as “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson, that was shot entirely in the Sassi: the city was chosen by the famous actor just because the historical center seems to be unaltered over 2000 years.
To have more information visit the official website of Matera municipality www.comune.matera.it/turismo