Summer Adventures in the Caves of Matera, Italy

This entry is part 7 of 33 in the series Italy

When you talk to people about traveling to Italy, there are those who say they’re jealous and can’t wait to go someday.

And then there are those who say, “Oh my gosh, I love Italy! You have to go to [fill in the blank with some incredible Italian destination]  .”

Both are COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY appropriate responses.

The trouble is, if we went everywhere someone said we HAD to go, we would be spending one night in each town. And we’re already on the move so much! (We’re visiting 16 towns in Italy and then three other European cities.)

So with that long-ass introduction, here’s the thing… 

If you ever go to the South of Italy, you HAVE to go to Matera.

– Me

But really, you do! 🤣

All four of us were completely enthralled. Even Annie was in awe, and she can be a little tough to impress with all the ancient wonder.

Matera, Italy

A Tiny Bit of Matera’s Long History

Historians don’t know for sure, but it’s thought to be one of the “oldest continually inhabited settlements in the world,” dating back to Paleolithic times.

Matera is also famous for the Sassi di Matera, two areas with incredible cave dwellings and deep cisterns. The caves were lived in up to the 1950’s, when the people were evacuated due to unsanitary and diseased conditions. They’ve since been rehabilitated and turned into shops, museums, and vacation rentals. In fact, our apartment was in an incredible location, with the front door even visible in the latest Bond movie, No Time to Die. I’m not a James Bond fan and even I thought that was pretty cool.

Kid-Friendly Sites in Matera, Italy

Casa Grotta del Casalnuovo

To get a better sense of the Sassi di Matera, we toured a small museum called Casa Grotta del Casalnuovo. The tour was perfect for kids because:

  1. It was short, AND
  2. It was cool in both temperature and awesomeness (because c’mon — CAVES)

The museum also included a (brief and not scary) tour of a crypt, which was really what got the kids hooked in the first place.

Sassi in Miniatura

Max loved Matera, and he especially loved the Sassi in Miniatura. Maestro E. Rizzi created this panorama of ancient Matera that is now on display for anyone to appreciate, including ten-year olds who are inspired by the model making and adults who enjoy the air-conditioning.

Church of Santa Maria de Idris

One of the most iconic landmarks in Matera is the Church of Sant Maria de Idris, which was right outside our front door. The church was also carved into the rock, just like the cave dwellings and we purchased tickets to go inside for this once-in-a-lifetime (unless we go back!) experience. Annie still says that ‘cave church’ was her favorite part of Matera, as we would go up and walk around it every evening with a magical view of the city landscape lit up at night.

Hiking in Matera

This was also the part of the trip where I started to itch for a little alone time, so one morning I went out for a hike before anyone else was up. The ravine below Matera has a small stream that has noisy frogs and a suspension bridge going across to the other side. I walked across the bridge and up the other side of the ravine to empty caves with incredible views of Matera.

We were all sad to leave Matera, but it helps to know we have many more incredible destinations ahead!

Next Up: A quick stop in Alberobello, Italy to see the Trulli houses.

This is part of a series about our family travels this summer through Italy — and beyond. You can start from the beginning of the blog series here or follow along on Instagram.

Series Navigation<< We Fell in Love With Otranto, ItalyA Quick Stop in Alberobello, Italy >>

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