Welcome to 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 (a roughly 2.5-hour 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 (stones) 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.