At Beaches Moms travel writer Sue Rodman gave a talk about “building a new travel blog vocabulary”. Good timing for my post on Matera because every hackneyed phrase about a destination ever written comes to mind: “off the radar”, “hidden gem”, “best kept secret” etc. etc.
So instead of torturing you with claptrap, I decided to come up with a quick list of reasons you should visit Matera. Because you should visit Matera.
To orient yourself, picture the “boot” part of Italy south of Rome. From Naples, you can draw a somewhat straight line to Bari. Matera is roughly in between those lines. It’s not the easiest to get to as you have to either take a train/flight/bus to Bari and transfer to Matera or find one of the few direct bus lines from Rome or Naples. Rome2Rio might help. I came from Rome and departed to Naples and it was 5 hours from Rome, 4 hours back to Naples.
Think it might be easier to drive? Just get ready for this:
But Matera is worth the trip. Here’s Why:
The Sassi: The what? The Sassi, or caves, of Matera were lived in without pause from the Paleolithic era to after Mussolini. Sometimes Poverty is a gift to tourism (which is a post in itself) and the extreme poverty of the Puglia/Basicilata region meant that poorer residents simply couldn’t afford houses and made do within the caves. Finally in the 1950s progress came to Matera, but so did Unesco so the sassi remain intact. From afar the town looks like Tatooine from Star Wars. Up close it rendered me speechless.
Even the “new” Matera would be worth seeing in itself. The piazzas are walkable, the cathedrals are gorgeous, and more culture drips from a random Matera street than off of many A-list cities I’ve visited. And oh, the food…
For a glimpse of real Italian life: I know, again with the cliches, but this one is true. “Siesta” is a Spanish word but the Southern European cultural influence lives in Matera. Life comes to a standstill at lunchtime and resumes in the late afternoon. I still remember the “gelato limone” I enjoyed every evening just perched on the edge of a fountain enjoying the show.
Matera is still a bargain compared to Northern Italy. Here’s my hotel room, in the Palazzo Gattini, costing $100/night in August thanks to Luxury Link. It came with a lovely breakfast every morning:
And a bottle of wine to enjoy on the rooftop terrace:
Meals? I didn’t pay more than 10 Euro for an Entree. The aforementioned gelato? 1 Euro. When my wine wasn’t free (thanks to traveling solo as a woman in Italy…another blog post), well, I’ll let the photo end the story…
Have you visited Matera? Please share your thoughts in the comments.