Matera changed from shame to fame, and was even in the latest Bond film

There’s a small corner of Southern Italy that has only recently emerged from the shadows. It was a place that was criticized as just 50 years ago, as “The shame of Italy”, Matera, the ancient modernized capital city of Basilicata with its breathtaking rugged cavernous landscape, and its troglodyte homes, has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, and is now featured in the latest Bond film No Time to Die.

Why visit Sassi di Matera, UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Absolutely, Matera is very easy to look at. Imagine a scene of tight connected hillside stone houses which are so compact that at times one of them is placed over the one. The ancient design oozes the mysterious beauty and is a blend of cave churches that are carved into the mountains, and ornate magnificent churches in The old city. It is a perfect fit for the pages of the latest Dan Brown thriller blockbuster.

One can’t help but think about all the weird characters and shady happenings that might have been lurking in those cave dwellings that were located in Sassi di Matera (the stones of Matera) for the better part of 9000 years. In fact, Bronze age evidence of humans’ presence in the region is one of the oldest cities around the globe.

Matera From shame to fashion in the span of 50 years

Not too long ago the living conditions were poor that the streets of both Sassi (meaning “stones”) districts, Barisano and Caveoso were inadvertently turned into sewers. The homes were often poorly ventilated with 90 percent humidity and, on top of that, farmers lived with their livestock (horses or sheep, horses) in tiny space. This was not helped by disease, overpopulation and the aforementioned poverty.

The council was so disgusted that they had to evacuate the city’s 20,000 residents and relocated the inhabitants into two-story houses in a square shape known as Casa Mussolini equipped with modern conveniences located on the outskirts of town. Matera was in dire need of restoration, and it has been cleaned up magnificently to the point that it was awarded the title of European Capital of Culture for 2019.

In the midst of the spotlight The city is fast becoming the next must-see destination for holiday travelers.

What to see in Matera

Matera has been divided up into civita which is the town’s centre and the surrounding Sassi Cliffs. It’s a hike that involves long and steep downs and ups. The the highlights are the breathtaking views particularly in the Parco della Murgia Materana, the park that is national in nature.

The 13th century Cathedral of Santa Maria della Bruna made of tufa stone has a majestic view of the Sassi from the highest place located on Civita hill. The interior is filled with Baroque style, featuring stucco paintings, gilded frames, paintings and sculptures.

There are a number of other churches made of tufa stones, but one of the most notable is the 13th century San Pietro. It’s worth looking up the Appian Method up to Cripta del Peccato Originale to discover the cave paintings of the medieval era.

The highest point in the hills lies the church in caves of Santa Lucia alle Malve, one of the 155 rupestrian (made out of stone) with amazing frescoes.

Find out about Matera’s film-making fame

It’s not a surprise to find that Mel Gibson chose to film his The Passion of the Christ in 2003. The sassi caves are immediately identifiable and so was the Church in San Nicola dei Greci which was chosen as the location to film Jesus’s Last Supper.

Be on the lookout for the soon-to-be out Ben Hur epic that stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston in which Metera serves as the background.

Wonder Woman, which was released in 2017, also filming in Matera and features Gal Gadot, David Thewlis along with Robin Wright.

In Matera, where to sleep Matera, and Matera Matera

Matera offers a variety of B&Bs, condominiums , and caves for 1-3 nights stay. Le Grotte della Civita is a complex of 18 cave-cum-bedrooms, is a elegantly rustic and perfect for romance. If you’re looking for an spa too, Locanda di San Martino Hotel and Thermae Romanae‘s Roman baths might meet your needs, while Palazzo Gattini provides an experience of spirituality and a stunning views.

If you’re looking to stay for more than for a weekend, we suggest that you combine a trip to Matera and a trip the nearby town of Puglia located just an hour’s drive in the direction of Matera (read the guide on the top 10 things to do on the island of the Puglia region). There are more than 18000 villas, some with pools as well as at least 2000 luxury homes in Puglia. Here are a few of our favorites:

Trullo Atena

Surrounded by three sunny hectares of private gardens Trullo Atena is something unique. It was designed to provide an experience that can help you re-energize and relax, improve the quality of life and give you an unforgettable experience in beautiful Puglia.

Trullo Incanto D’Itria is an intricate complex of traditional trulli, with stunning gardens and pools. Recently renovated, it provides the finest outdoor living for large groups. The vast gardens are well designed and are filled with old olive trees, and the area around the pool is stunning.

Trullo Liz

Trullo Liz is an tiny jewel, ideal for couples who want to spend time together or for a smaller family. The traditional home is meticulously renovated to keep its original features but still offer the advantages of modern day living.