Heralded as one of Italy’s most memorable and magnificent tourists destinations, the imitable town of Matera is famed for its dramatic cliffs and arresting architecture. Matera has undergone a remarkable transformation, from Italy’s ‘city of shame’, ravaged by disease and poverty, the glamorous and opulent destination that never fails to stir the imagination.
The town is rarely given the attention it deserves, as travellers tend to be seduced by the global fame of Rome and Venice; however, those that do venture to Matera’s cave dwelling districts and captivating curiosities will yield many cultural rewards. An intricate network of subterranean chambers are home to rich reminders of Matera’s fascinating past, the depths of which can be visited in an immersive and intriguing tour.
Matera’s primary allure is undoubtedly the ancient town of Sassi di Matera, a revered UNESCo world heritage site. Carved into the rock face, the distinct houses are cramped together and stacked upon one another, and connected by an evocative maze of sinuous streets. Amidst these remarkable residences is the Church of Santa Lucia, a sacred, 8th century structure engraved into the limestone cliffs.
The town’s illustrious past has created a plethora of material for its magnificent museums; most significant is the Museo Nazionale Ridola, which documents the region of Basiliicata’s intriguing history. With artefacts dating back to the Roman and prehistoric age, the exhibition speak eloquently of Matera’s turbulent history, detailing local legends and extraordinary occurrences.
Hailed as one of the town’s most exquisite eateries, Ristorante Francesca is housed in a delicately restored split-level cave in the heart of Matera’s historic neighbourhood. Dine in the atmospheric depths upon hand-made pasta with fiery dried chilli and tender lamb steaks, cooked to perfection according to age old recipes. (Vico Bruno Buozzi 9, 75100 Matera, Italy)