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Things to Do in Matera

The southern Italian city of Matera looks as if it is frozen in time—and parts of it are. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most popular attraction in the small region of Basilicata (roughly 2.5-hour’s drive from Naples) owing to its hillside series of prehistoric cave dwellings that are believed to date back thousands of years. It is thought that the so-called sassi di Matera were occupied by some of Italy’s first humans, and many are still in use today, serving as restaurants, bars, hotels, and even art galleries. While travelers can visit many of the sassi independently, signs and information plaques are sparse so it’s best to go with an expert guide who can shed light on the area’s long history. Just outside Matera, the Murgia Materana Park is home to some 150 ancient churches that were carved right out of the limestone. Take a sightseeing tour that includes entrance fees, the services of a guide, and round-trip transport from Matera for a hassle-free visit to the rupestrian churches. If you’re visiting Matera from elsewhere in Italy, the small city is located about 1.5 hours away from Bari, the capital of Puglia, by train.
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Sassi di Matera
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57 Tours and Activities

A European Capital of Culture, the UNESCO-listed Sassi di Matera are one of Basilicata’s most fascinating destinations. The cave dwellings and caverns carved into the hillside of Matera date from prehistoric times and were inhabited until the 1950s. Today, they host unique hotels, restaurants, churches, and museums.

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Murgia National Park (Parco della Murgia Materana)
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10 Tours and Activities

The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Murgia Materana Park is one of the most important attractions in the region of Basilicata. Located near the Sassi di Matera, the park is famous for its prehistoric sites, rupestrian churches, and varied wildlife—and is a fascinating testament to the historic relationship between humans and nature.

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Madonna delle Virtù Church (Chiesa di Madonna delle Virtù)
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This stunning and historic church is tucked among an incredible complex comprised of dozens of caves and dates back to the early 10th century. Its unique location and iconic beauty has been attracting travelers for hundreds of years. Widely recognized as one of Matera’s most important religious monuments, Madonna delle Virtù Church (Chiesa di Madonna delle Virtù), as well as nearby San Nicola dei Greci, draws pilgrims from around the world.

The church’s interior is decorated with brilliantly restored frescos and occasional temporary exhibits are also on display here. Travelers can wander the two floors containing multiple rooms, gaze out over vast landscapes and picturesque views and tour the site’s unique history on a visit to Madonna delle Virtu.

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