Although we were Clive Myrie’s guide to Puglia on the start of his road trip around Italy, we didn’t accompany him on his visit to our near neighbour Matera. But we know it well, and many visits later have an optimised walking guide to exploring the winding alleyways of the Sassi.
Matera is a joy to explore on foot. Its geography makes it relatively easy to get your bearings on the vertical. The trick is navigating the winding alleys and ways and managing the levels as you descend. A wrong turn can take you in a different direction and, although you’ll still come to Via Madonna delle Virtù, you might end up with an unexpected longer walk. Good luck with sat nav – it confuses the heck out of us!
This route covers many of the major sites and attractions in the Sassi of Matera and can be completed in about 2-3 hours depending on how much time you spend at each location. Note that the streets in the Sassi can be steep and uneven, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Bring water and sunscreen.
Keep in mind 4 key locations, for four parts of the journey. The rest you can work out between and around them. You don’t need to start at Piazza Vittorio Veneto. We have suggested the main square because of its proximity to the train station (and parking areas). You can start anywhere, and in either direction. If you are staying in the Sassi it might make sense to start at Piazza San Pietro Caveoso and walk up.
Our suggestion isn’t intended to be prescriptive, rather to give you a structure to base your walking around. The green lines on the screenshot below indicate the general direction, rather than the route, and connect the landmarks. The actual route between the locations meanders somewhat, all part of the fun.
- Piazza Vittorio Veneto (1) to the Piazza Duomo (2) for the Basilica (gentle climb, steeper towards the Duomo).
- Piazza Duomo (2) to Piazza San Pietro Caveoso (3) (incline down).
- Piazza San Pietro Caveoso (3) to Piazza Pascoli (4) (uphill).
- Piazza Pascoli (4) back to Piazza Vittorio Veneto (1) (level-ish).
- Start at Piazza Vittorio Veneto (1). This is the main square in Matera and is a good starting point for your walk. At the top end of the piazza is “I Tre Archi” which has a wonderful panoramic view over the sassi. The Mondadori Bookstore is a nice visit, with some tasteful Matera themed gifts (notebooks, cards, calendars). You can pop in before or after refreshments at Bar Caffè Tripoli which has a nice seating area outside at the side of the piazza. For a cheap and cheerful lunch we’ve eaten pasta at Pasteggiando 1 – The Way Of Pasta (choose your pasta and separately your sauce). For an enjoyable dinner on the piazza we ate at La Finestra sui Sassi – Kappador (and thoroughly recommend the strascinate con salsiccia pezzente, mollica di Pane di Matera e peperone crusco, strascinate pasta with peasant sausage, breadcrumbs and sun dried crusci peppers). Nearby (between the piazza and the main train station) you will also find the mercato storico di Matera centrale food market well worth a visit.
- At the Post Office (Poste Italiane), before coming onto Piazza San Francesco, take a left to connect with Via delle Beccherie (continuing up onto the via Duomo to the Basilica Cattedrale di Matera (2)). Via delle Beccherie is one of the oldest in the Sassi and is lined with traditional stone houses and shops. You will pass by the Conservatory where you might here some classes taking place, either singing or musicians. If so, maybe take a moment to listen. You can have a coffee or refreshments at one of the bars on the Piazza del Sedile and soak up the atmosphere. Further along we sometimes stop off at the Monkey Drink House
- Continue up the via Duomo to Piazza Duomo and the Basilica Cattedrale di Matera.
- From here, depending on your energy levels and/or the heat you can opt for a long or short walk around the Via Madonna delle Virtù ending at Piazza San Pietro Caveoso (3). Either way it offers another stunning panoramic views of the city and over the gravina. For the long walk head from the Duomo in this direction. For a shorter walk head in the direction of Piazza San Pietro Caveoso. Somewhere in between, head towards Casa Noha where you will find a multimedia exhibition in a cave dwelling. Be prepared to meander!
- Piazza San Pietro Caveoso: This square is located in the Caveoso district of the Sassi and features several historic buildings and churches, including the Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso. From here you can enjoy the views, stop for a coffee or refreshments. Kiev Ristorante has nice terrace space on the square. We’ve enjoyed shopping for souvenirs at Peperoncino and had lunch at Altieri Cafè, for inexpensive local dishes including (the unfortunately named) crapiata, a plain bean stew made a little more interesting with some crushed cruschi that we sprinkled on top. For dinner we have enjoyed repeat visits to Ristorante Francesca for finer dining.
- Before heading up Via Bruno Buozzi towards Piazzetta Pascoli stop off for Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris built into the rocky hilltop, with its frescoes. As you continue up along Via Buozzi there are many places to eat or drink along the way. This is also a good place to go off the track and head into the heart of the Sassi, and walk around. For example head off Via Bruno Buozzi along Via San Pietro Caveoso in this direction. Or head up Ponte San Pietro Caveoso in this direction. In either case the aim is to connect with the route again along Via Domenico Ridola somewhere around here! But be sure to head back to Piazza Pascoli (4) for the panoramic view at Belvedere Piazzetta Pascoli. A great spot to take a break and enjoy the scenery and take some photos.
- If you have stuck to Via Bruno Buozzi to take you up, it connects with Via Casalnuovo. Turn right towards Charlie’s Speakeasy and continue along Via Casalnuovo towards the steps by Area 8 to take you up to the Piazza and onto Via Ridola. Look out on the left for a strange little house that looks like a creepy old museum, but as far as we can tell is still lived in. We haven’t been to the Speakeasy but we have had a fun late night out at Area 8.
- From Piazzetta Pascoli head along Via Domenico Ridola towards Piazza San Francesco where you find the Chiesa di San Francesco with Baroque architecture and artworks. Via Ridola is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, and is a great place to stop for a coffee or snack. Not to be missed is the gelateria: I Vizi degli Angeli – Gelateria Artigianale. Even better if the lavender ice-cream is in season. If not don’t worry, the flavours are delicious and the ice-lollies are top. Especially the Aperol Spritz flavoured lolly.
- You will pass by the Chiesa del Purgatorio. Just before the church up along Via Alessandro Volta is Ocio Sandwich Room, perfect for a morning coffee and pastry, a light panino lunch or evening aperitivo. We had a fun night out here too.
- Continue along Via Ridola until you reach the Chiesa di San Francesco. Then head back to Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
Matera City Tour offer a guided walking tour. They also offer a sightseeing bus tour which we were up for, although we hadn’t booked and we missed the window of opportunity. At €15 for 90 minutes it looked very good value, and certainly convenient and easy. We recommend booking as the bus is relatively small and when we visited there were only a few circuits daily. It is not a hop-on hop-off tour, although we did see it stop at Piazza San Pietro Caveoso.
Matera City Guide
Check out our full Matera city guide.
Matera has one of our favourite Pride celebrations. This year’s Matera Pride will take place on July 22nd.