What to See and Do in Matera: 2019 European Capital of Culture

The European Capital of Culture this year is the extraordinary city of Matera and it’s not hard to see why. Inhabited for thousands of years, as far back as the Paleolithic era, this beautiful Southern Italian city may be the third longest, continually-inhabited human settlement in the world.

 

Found between the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas, just an hour and a half from the elegant surrounds of Torre Maizza, Matera is known and loved for its awe-inspiring historic architecture, religious iconography, and stunning scenery. In fact, it’s so evocative that Matera has been nicknamed “The Second Bethlehem”, appearing in films like The Passion of the Christ and Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew).

 

This year will see hundreds of cultural events taking place in and around the city as part of its tenure as the European Capital of Culture, as well as throughout the region of Basilicata itself. In addition to the programme, Matera itself offers a wealth of incredible things to see and do in and around the city. These are five of the best.

 

Salvador Dali: The Persistence of Opposites
90km from Masseria Torre Maizza
Walk through the city and take in the multi-sensorial exhibition of 150 works by Salvador Dali along the way. Open until November 2019, it features sculptures, illustrations, holograms, virtual reality, 3D mapping and audio. This is a monumental work, set against a truly incredible backdrop.

 

Sassi di Matera
90km from Masseria Torre Maizza
The two Sassi (meaning “stone”) districts are filled with grottoes carved out of the limestone of the Gravina Valley. Hauntingly beautiful, with a tumultuous past of poverty and deprivation, today these ancient cave dwellings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and undergoing something of a renaissance. Before you go, learn about the Sassi and the story of Matera through the multimedia exhibit at the 16th century Casa Noha.

 

The Rupestrian Churches
90km from Masseria Torre Maizza
There are over 150 of these historic rock churches in the Murgia National Park, which also offers great views over the Sassi. While stunning themselves, the rock churches also feature incredible frescoes that have weathered the centuries miraculously, like those in Saint Peter’s from the 15th and 16th centuries. The Crypt of Original Sin, meanwhile, is called “the Sistine Chapel of rupestrian art”.

 

Matera Cathedral
90km from Masseria Torre Maizza
The 13th century Apulian Romanesque-style cathedral, found between the two Sassi districts, reopened to the public in 2016 following a renovation, much to the delight of visitors and worshippers alike. Visit for the 12th-century crypts, the 17th- and 18th-century frescoes, the 16th-century gemstone nativity, and the 13th-century Byzantine painting of Madonna and Child, and much more.

 

Palombaro Lungo
90km from Masseria Torre Maizza
Found under the 18th century Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the Palombaro Lungo is essentially a subterranean cathedral of water. Once the city’s main water supply, the arches and pillars throughout this beautiful and awe-inspiring labyrinthine complex are carved out of the rock. Tours can be arranged daily, just call ahead (+39 339 3638332).

 

To experience Matera and the events of the 2019 European City of Culture, book your stay at Torre Maizza .

Image credit
Matera Cathedral Credit iStock Treeffe
Matera Credit iStock Blue Jay Photo
Matera Credit iStock Ermess 1
Matera Credit iStock Ermess
Sassi Matera Credit iStock Blue Place