The places to visit in Matera are mainly the Sassi, the historical center and the Murgia Materana Park. These places offer a suggestive itinerary, the places are continually fused together offering a fascinating journey to discover the city.
The current historical center of the city delimits the upper part of the Sassi of Matera, the two urban contexts are connected through numerous accesses that create a continuous exchange. To access the Sassi, in fact, just take one of the many streets or alleys that descend from the city center to the old districts. Both in the center and in the Sassi there are numerous views of the Murgia Park.
Visit the Sassi of MateraThe Sassi of Matera are a great cultural landscape, the reason for being included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The architectural structure consists of a series of elements that have been stratified over time, to these first complexes excavated by man in the rock, are followed the churches also carved into the rock called (Chiese Rupestri), the burial areas. Elements that continually alternate with buildings of all the different eras of the last millennium, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque period up to the modern age. Thei are caves, hypogea, palazzotti, churches, neighborhoods, stairways, balconies, gardens all set in each other to form a unique and evocative landscape.
Originally before Matera became a city the Sassi were probably a cave habitat identical to what is currently seen on the opposite side of the canyon dug by the Gravina di Matera, a tributary of the Bradano river. The western slope on which the Sassi are found is made up of steep walls facing the river and higher up by a series of terracing, hills and plateaus.
These last places were chosen because they were more suitable for human settlement and over the millennia they were transformed from villages or cave houses into a real city. Particularly interesting are the churches carved into the rock (Chiese Rupestri) that you can visit in the Sassi of Matera. These churches represent and testify concretely the cultural passage that has taken place in the history of man from the pagan era to Christianity.
The Historic centerThe historic center of Matera is located on the plateau that borders on top with the Sassi. Even in the historic center, Matera shows different levels of urban overlap. The central Piazza Vittorio Veneto has some openings that show the original level of the places, today called hypogea, which lie below the same square. They are caves that articulate in continuity forming a real submerged city connected with the Sassi. Here there are exceptional structures such as the large cistern called Palombaro Lungo with walls 15 meters high, the size of a football field. The historic center of Matera is developed through some streets that connect the various squares along the "Axis Settecentesco" of the city. In the center of Matera there are a series of important palaces and churches that have had a particular importance in the course of city history.
Along the route that starts from the XIII century church of San Giovanni Battista, crosses Piazza Vittorio Veneto and Via del Corso and continues into Via Ridola, the historic center of Matera offers a series of churches and monumental palaces that host the main cultural sites of the City: the Provincial Library, the National Institute for Conservation and Restoration, the National Archaeological Museum D. Ridola, the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Basilicata at Palazzo Lanfranchi.
The main monumental churches of Matera follow each other along the route of the historic center up to the Civita where there is the Cathedral of the thirteenth century, which dominates on both sides the Sassi of Matera.
Visit the surroundings of MateraThe surroundings of Matera have extraordinary cultural and environmental resources. Taking the state road 7 in the direction of Taranto, you come across the rocky sanctuary of Palomba which represents the first monastic settlement in the north along the Gravina di Matera. A little further along the same street is the contemporary Sculpture Park of the Palomba, a large and evocative space dotted with the impressive sculptures of the internationally renowned artist Antonio Paradiso. A little further on there are the important cultural centers of the Parco della Murgia Materana.
Going towards the west instead, following the road to Miglionico in the locality Pietra Penta, along the Gravina di Piacciano there is the Crypt of the Original Sin, one of the oldest and most important rupestrian churches in the Matera area where it is possible to admire a cycle of frescoes by IX century.
A short distance from the Crypt is the faunal oasis of San Giuliano.