Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is known for its splendid “Sassi”, a vast Historical District made up of an ensemble of millennia-old buildings and caves excavated into and built out of the characteristic tufa limestone of the area.
The Sassi overlook a dramatic ravine and face the limestone plateau of the “Murgia”, where over a hundred Byzantine rock churches form the outdoor Parco delle Chiese Rupestri. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the Sassi have been extensively restored into modern dwellings, shops, restaurants and spaces for cultural activities. Together with the historic center proper of Matera, the Sassi offer excellent examples of Byzantine, Romanesque and Baroque art and architecture, not to mention important traces of peasent culture. Visitors will never tire of leisurely exploring the winding streets, nooks and crannies of the Sassi, but they can also see the Ridola National Archaeological Museum and the new Museum of Modern Art. In addition to its local gastronomic traditions and artisan crafts, Matera has an extremely active cultural life year-round.
Matera is a half-hour drive from the sandy beaches of the Ionian Coast, where the Ancient Greeks founded the colonies of Taranto, Heraclea (Policoro), and Metaponto, where Pythagoras held his school in the latter part of his life. Each of these sites features noteworthy archaeological attractions. The Ionian beaches of Basilicata are blessed with some of the cleanest coastline and water in Italy. In the western portion of the region, visitors can enjoy mountaineering excursions in the Parco Nazionale del Pollino, home of the rare pino loricato tree. To the east of Matera in neighboring Apulia, the town of Alberobello and the Trulli District is in easy reach. Also close at hand is Castel del Monte, the striking castle of the Emperor Frederick II, which forms a medieval itinerary together with the castles of Lagopesole and Melfi in Basilicata.