What we did & where we stayed in Matera with a baby
Is Matera, Italy on your bucket list? If not, it should be! This unique, charming town near the heel of Italy’s boot has it all: amazing views, one-of-a-kind architecture, and a rich and fascinating history as the world’s third oldest continually inhabited space.
Looking for a more in-depth guide to visiting Italy? I’ve got ya covered!
When you’re visiting Matera, you’re really going for the Sassi di Matera: the ancient neighborhood. This town is actually a series of caves built into the side of a ravine. The facades of the homes stick out onto winding streets, many of which are actually the roofs of the homes below.
When you wander through Matera, you can feel how ancient the place is. This town was one of the first human settlements – home to prehistoric troglodytes (cave dwellers).
It’s no wonder that Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! But it has not always been a desirable place to visit. The people who lived in Matera in the early 20th century lived in absolute poverty. They would share their caves with their livestock. There was no running water, sanitation, or electricity. The infant mortality rate was close to 50%.
In the 1950s, the Italian government forced everybody out of Matera to settle into nearby modern cities, leaving the cave city barren and destroying the community culture at the same time. Over the decades, people began to move back and make improvements, and in the 1990s, the first hotel popped up in a renovated cave.
Nowadays, Matera has had a complete regeneration. Caves have been turned into hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants, bars, museums, clubs, and even a 50 employee software company. This is a destination that feels like it’s just barely holding on to “unknown” status – I don’t think it will be long before Matera is right up there with Venice on everyone’s “must-see” list for Italy.
Everything that you need is within easy exploring distance in Matera, but you will have to handle a lot of stairs. You absolutely cannot get anywhere in the town without going up or down. This was a major challenge for me, at 8 months pregnant, and for our 21-month-old toddler. Don’t bother bringing a stroller. But even so, we were able to get around and see most of the sassi.
Where we stayed
When you’re walking around the sassi, it’s almost shocking when you suddenly turn a street and are in the modern part of the city. It looks like any other modern city – and it feels like you’ve wandered between two completely different worlds.
And while you can certainly stay in the modern city, I can’t imagine coming all the way to Matera and not sleeping in a cave. Just think – someone has been sleeping in that room for at least the last 9,000 years! How many places can make that claim?
We found our cave on Airbnb, but you can find them by searching hotels in the area as well.
Staying in a cave might have some minor inconveniences – it’s very humid, and you’ll wake up with a dusting of sand from the walls all over you and your belongings. But many of the caves have been beautifully modernized. Ours had a lovely bathroom, wifi, a full kitchenette, TV, a bed and 2 sofas.
Is Matera on your list for your next trip to Italy? Let me know in the comments!
to pin for later: