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Matera Travel Guide: 3-Day Itinerary

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Be sure to pack your comfiest shoes because this town is best explored on foot!

I just got home from Matera a few hours ago and I already miss it. Luckily, since I'm now living in Trieste, Italy, this was easily done as a quick getaway but even if you have to travel further to make it happen, I can't recommend this ancient city enough.

There's something just so special about visiting Matera. When I first learned about it, I thought it would remind me of Cappadocia, a highlight from my time in Turkey. But, other than the obvious cave houses, Matera is completely distinct.

As one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the 2019 European Capital of Culture I'm obviously not the only person who thinks highly of it.

I spent 2 nights in Matera and had a nice mix of walking and sightseeing plenty but still with downtime to enjoy the views with a cold drink and a great meal since the Sassi area really isn't too big.

Let's dive right in with how you should spend your 3-days in Matera, Italy.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

🛵Matera, Italy is one of the most unique places I've ever visited and is well worth the trip, even if it's not so easy to get to.

⌛Have minimal time? My #1 recommendation is to walk! Put your phone away (except for pictures) and let yourself mindlessly wander the Sassi area enjoying whatever you stumble upon.

🎭Staying Longer? GetYourGuide and Viator offer a wide variety of tours and activities to suit your schedule, budget, and interests. 

🛏️Make your time in Matera even better by booking your stay the boutique cave hotel, Palazzotto Residence & Winery. For a completely unique stay, this has to be the winner.

📅3 days should be enough to explore the city but if you fall in love like I did, you might need a few more nights to have some downtime alongside all the walking you'll want to do.

🏥Accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

Day 1 in Matera

On your 1st day in Matera, you've only just arrived!

Regardless of what time you arrive in Matera, drop your bags off at your hotel or vacation rental. If you can check-in, even better, but at the least, I would avoid carting your bag up and down the hilly town.

Don't know how to get here or where to stay? At the bottom of this article I cover transportation tips and best hotel recommendations.

Nip Into One of the Cave Houses

This is a town that needs a lot of context. Its rags to riches story from being known as the "Shame of Italy" to the beauty that it is today shouldn't be ignored.

While you might not have the time or the energy for a tour on day 1, I would recommend visiting one of the cave houses to learn more about this city's history.

There are plenty to choose from but I enjoyed Casa Noha because alongside getting to see inside a traditional cave house, they provided an educational video that walks you through the town's history, answering a lot of my initial questions and hopefully yours, too.

Enjoy an Aperitivo with a View

Matera is really all about the views and lucky for you, there are plenty of great bars and restaurants to enjoy an aperitivo and/or a meal.

My time visiting Matera revolved around 3 things: walking, eating, and soaking up views. And what better way to combine them all than by enjoying an aperitivo with a view?

Lucky for you, you have some options. Choose to bar hop all evening or pick 1 spot for tonight and another for tomorrow.

My top recommendations for an aperitivo with a view are:

  • Crialoss: This is best for a light meal or snacks alongside your drink and sunset view
  • Madame Giulia: I went here for a sunset aperitivo but ended up staying for a seriously delicious meal
  • Quarry Lounge Terrace: Instead of getting a cocktail here, I went for a coffee in the late morning. The bar and restaurant is upstairs from the hotel
  • Zipa Cafe: For inventive cocktails in a cozy setting, I highly recommend getting a drink and light bite here
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Day 2 in Matera

I hope you had a restful night because today will be a big one full of stunning vistas, gorgeous photos, and delicious food.

Go on a Walking Tour

This walking tour could either be self-guided or with a tour guide, the choice is yours.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of large tour groups and much prefer either self-guided options, small groups, or private tours. Unfortunately, since I did this trip solo, the price for a private tour guide was above my budget.

If you can swing it though or are traveling with your family or group of friends to share the cost, I highly recommend it. I found myself with so many questions and while the film at Casa Noha did answer a few, I do wish I had a guide that I could get to the nitty gritty with.

Matera's history is a wild one so to really soak it all up, these top rated tours should give you the context you're craving.

If you opt for a self-guided walking tour, be sure to visit these spots (all links open Google Maps):

  • Church of Saint Mary of Idris: This cave church is the crowning jewel of the Sassi and sits just above San Pietro Caveoso. Unsurprisingly, it offers great views of the Sassi di Matera.
  • This viewpoint of San Pietro Caveoso: See this church and the Rock Church in one sweeping view at this epic viewpoint. Just be sure to walk down to San Pietro afterwards to see it up close and personal.
  • Palombaro Lungo: These are the underground cisterns at Piazza Vittorio Veneto that were pretty recently rediscovered if you want to see what's under Matera, too.
  • Piazza Vittorio Veneto: This is one of the main piazzas in town that divided the new town with the old one. Be sure to head under the triple archway for another great view.
  • Via Madonna della Virtu: Stroll along the entirety of this road as it snakes along the backside of the city for great views of the Sassi and La Gravina.
  • Via Bruno Buozzi: Looking for souvenir shops and more restaurant choices? This street is in the center of the Sassi but has a lot more to offer than most of the quieter alleyways.

Another Sunset, Another Aperitivo

Can you tell I'm a big aperitivo girlie? Living in Italy has been a very good fit for me.

Even though I know you stopped for lunch during your walking tour, you probably still worked up an appetite. Either visit another of the aperitivo options listed on day 1 or book a table at an actual restaurant.

At the bottom of this article I've shared some of the best food you need to try while visiting Matera.

Day 3 in Matera

Your feet might be aching but I promise this final stretch will be worth it! If you have a few hours before your bus or train, I recommend starting your day in the early morning for a short hike.

Hike in Murgia Materana Park

Yesterday while walking around Matera I'm sure you noticed the deep ravine surrounding the eastern side, called La Gravina. Across the ravine you might have even noticed small natural caves carved right into the rock face.

That area is home to some of the earliest settlements in Matera, now protected under the Murgia Materana Park. This park has loads of hiking trails to traverse but one of the best ones to do from Sassi di Matera is a short yet hilly loop.

To cross the ravine and start your hike, head to Ponte Tibetano della Gravina. From there, the path is clearly defined but once you reach the peak, you'll have plenty of trails to choose from. Since visibility is good, you can pick and choose your trails to walk as much or as little as you'd like.

From this side, you'll get great views of Sassi di Matera and get to peek in some of these incredibly old cave dwellings. I saw a lot of people doing this hike in the afternoon but I think it's best done in the early morning. The trails will be in the shade but the Sassi will be illuminated in the sun making for great pictures and a more enjoyable, less sweaty hike.

If you're short on time or energy, I do recommend at least getting to Ponte Tibetano because the view from the middle of that bridge is really great. Just know that the walk down is slick in parts so go with caution if you don't have the right shoes.

Pack Up & Check-Out

Make sure to plan some time to head back to your hotel for a shower before you have to check out, trust me you're going to want it.

If you have the time, I highly recommend you don't end your trip to Southern Italy here but explore the rest of the Basilicata region or head out to explore what neighboring Puglia has to offer.

Matera Travel Tips

Let's make sure your trip to Matera goes extra smooth with these few additional tips.

How to Get to Matera

Getting to Matera isn't very easy. Given it's fame I was actually really surprised by this but once I was there, strolling the relatively quiet alleyways, I was happy you had to work for it because I think that deters a lot of people.

There are 3 ways to get to Matera:

  • By Train: Before you get excited, it's not that easy. Pretty much all trains have to go through Altamura, are slower, and not as often as you might hope. Surprisingly enough there isn't a direct line from the Bari train station. Trainline is my preferred way to see the train schedules and buy tickets.
  • By Bus: This is the route I took coming from the Bari Airport. The drive took about 40-minutes and I booked my ticket online directly though the bus provider, Bus Miccolis. I was a bit worried about this as I'm prone to car sickness but the road is extremely straight so it was an easy drive.
  • By Car: Although I'm not sure how easy it would be to find parking, the fastest and easiest way to get to Matera is certainly by car. Arriving here by train or bus is very limiting from where you can arrive from, so by renting a car, you can come from any direction on your Puglia road trip.

Where to Stay in Matera

The most obvious recommendation on where to stay in Matera is to stay at one of the many cave hotels. If you have the budget for it go for it but if, like me, you don't, there are still plenty of other great hotels to choose from.

The most important tip in my opinion is to actually stay in the Sassi di Matera instead of in the city center. Just note that it does get really dark there as soon as the sun goes down. I didn't feel unsafe as a solo female traveler but I didn't make a habit of staying out too late after the sunset because of this.

📍Looking for a great place to stay in an incredible location? Don't miss out on these best hotels in Matera, Italy:

  • Budget Option: Alla dimora di Chiara Suite and Rooms: Enjoy all the charm on a lower budget by staying right in the historic center at this hotel.
  • Mid-Tier Option: The View Matera: This is where I stayed in Matera so I can recommend it from experience. It's the closest you'll get from the bus/train station that’s still within the old town and the name speaks for itself with the epic views it offers.
  • Luxury Option: Palazzotto Residence & Winery: This is certainly one of the best cave hotels that you can stay in. For a completely unique stay, this has to be the winner.

How Many Nights to Stay in Matera

There aren't so many "things to do" in Matera so 2 nights should be enough for you but, personally, I could have easily stayed a few extra nights to really soak up the environment.

Instead of staying longer in Matera, I headed east for 3 days in Puglia. Although I did enjoy exploring that region, I'm still not sure I made the right decision by splitting my time.

I know many people treat Matera as a day trip but unless you're not amused by architecture and don't enjoy roaming on foot, I urge you to stay at least 1 night here, although I think 2-3 is best. Matera is seriously so unique and worth a little extra time to explore it well.

For those that love nightlife and plenty of activities and entertainment options, you might be just fine on a shorter schedule though.

Foods to Try in Matera

I will travel for food and living in Italy has made the foodie in me even more excited than usual. Although I don't think you'll eat badly in any city in Italy, my meals in Matera were especially good.

In general the traditional food is simple but relies heavily on fresh, local produce giving it a more flavorful punch.

  • Cialledda: Stale bread chopped with fresh veggies and plenty of olive oil. This one is so light, fresh, and tasty.
  • Fave e Cicoria (broad beans with chicory): This one is a warmer, heartier dish and will really hit the spot after a long day in Matera.
  • Peperoni Cruschi (dried sweet peppers): This snack was something I was really eager to try and honestly was let down by it. I still think you should make your own decision but I was expecting more of a potato chip vibe than I really got with this.
  • Bread of Matera: Matera's bread is unique compared to other types you'll see throughout Italy. The loafs are really huge though so the best way to try it is as bruschetta topped with fresh tomatoes with your aperitivo.
  • Caciocavallo: You'll find this type of cheese all throughout Southern Italy so whether you try it here or elsewhere, it shouldn't be missed. You can try it fresh or baked.
  • Orecchiette: Although from neighboring Puglia, this ear-shaped pasta is super tasty and found on menus around town.
  • Strascinati: This pasta is similar to orecchiette but longer in form. I ate this at Madame Giulia, mentioned above, and it really blew me away.
  • Tetta della Monaca: Originally from Altamura, this cream stuffed pastry is a delicious treat, if you can forgo the extremely unique (and a little bit sac-relig) name.

Best Time to Visit Matera


I visited Matera in spring, early April to be specific, and loved the weather. The nights are still chilly and the temperatures drop drastically so you will want to bring a jacket if you'll be out past sunset.

In the sun though, I was happy in a short skirt and short-sleeved top.

The sky, as you've seen in my pictures, was ridiculously blue without a rain cloud in sight. That might have been more luck than season though as typically spring brings on the rain.


Summer in Southern Italy is no joke so if you can't handle super hot temperatures, I would avoid it. The best way to experience Matera is by walking aimlessly and that might not be so enjoyable if the temperature is around 100°F or 40°C.

Summer is also when there are the most crowds so you won't get this wonderful city as to yourself as you may like.

There is one great reason to visit in the summer though and that's for the Madonna della Bruna festival held on July 2. This festival gets really rowdy with the crowd ripping apart the floats from the parade so I would only join in if that sounds fun, not intimidating.


Although I don't have personal experience visiting Matera in the fall, I've heard it's similar weather to what you can expect in the spring. There will also be less people in town than in the summer, making it a nice overall time to visit.


Given how far south Matera is, the winter is pretty mild meaning there's really no bad time to visit. Just know that some restaurants and bars might take their holidays in the winter since there's less tourists in town. You might have a few less options to choose from but in general it should be a nice quiet time to see the city.

Best Day Trips from Matera

Matera, Italy is located at the heel of the boot in Southern Italy. Its location means you have all the south really at your fingertips.

That being said though, I would only recommend these day trips from Matera if you have your own car and are staying here for more than 2 nights.

If that's the case, you'll love visiting:

  • Altamura: Just a little ways away, Altamura is the only place (that I'm aware of) that you can get directly to by train from Matera, making it the most convenient day trip option.
  • Alberbello: From Matera, I would only visit Alberbello if you have a car. Getting there by public transportation is tricky so combining 2 hard to reach spots is tough (speaking from experience!). The trulli houses here are one-of-a-kind though.
  • Bari: Chances are you arrived in the area via Bari so before heading to Matera or after your trip, spend a few hours in the city. Note that Bari is quite big so you'll want more than just an hour or 2 to really scope it out.
  • Polignano a Mare: This cute seaside town is just south of Bari but again is best visited as a day trip if you have a car to get there directly. This town is quite small so you can walk the entire old town in just an hour if you don't stop for a meal.

Movies that Showcase Matera

Need some help getting your travel buddy excited about visiting Matera?

Lucky for you, you can let these movies do the talking. You can soak up the views of Matera in these famous movies:

  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Wonder Woman
  • James Bond: No Time to Die

How Will You Spend Your Trip to Matera?

I hope this Matera itinerary will be as good for you as it was for me! I truly loved visiting Matera and know it'll long be towards the top of my list of favorite places to visit in Italy and, honestly, in the entire world.

Whether you spend just 3-days in Matera or have time to stay longer, keep your eyes open, soak up the sights and sounds, and treat yourself to plenty of meals with stunning views. It's absolutely worth visiting and somewhere that even left me thinking, I could live here.

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