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!
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14 thoughts on “Why We Loved Matera with Kids”
I love villages like this! So historic and cultural. Looks like it belongs as a movie set!
It has been the set for many movies, in fact! It is often used to portray biblical cities, especially.
Wow, the cave cities of Matera sound fascinating. I would love to stay in a 9000 year old airBnB cave. It’s hard to imagine such abject poverty and 50% infant mortality in an European country in the modern era. It’s sad, but so is the loss of a culture that has existed for so long.
Yeah, it is truly an amazing place. The history goes so much deeper – and the cultural implications along with it – and I highly recommend the museum there to learn more about it!
I absolutely have it on my bucket list! I am actually thinking about going this fall, and looking at staying in a cave. Thanks for sharing.
Matera is one place in Italy I haven’t been to yet and looks totally amazing. Love hilltop towns with old buildings with amazing facades. Would love to stay in that cave accommodation!
OMG, I never knew about this cave city UNESCO Workd Heritage Site. Sad about it’s oast but upbeat about it’s new explosion into the destination scene!
If I could, I would explore every inch of this amazing country. Matera is so unique, with its caves and stone buildings. Knowing the history makes it even more fascinating.
I didn’t know that Matera was home to cave dwellers. Your airbnb cave look awesome place to stay if you ignore the inconvenience you mentioned. But still, a great story to tell back home. And your daughter is truly a cutie-pie…kisses from me.
Matera sounds incredible. To be frank, had never heard of it. Thanks to you for unveiling this lesser known gem of Italy. We have not explored Italy much beyond Rome, Florence, Venice. We hope to plan an itinerary that is off the beaten track next time and Matera fits in perfectly. An entire cave city sounds amazing, though it does seem to have a poignant history.
I’m so glad to have introduced you to this awesome city! If you end up down in that region, I recommend making it to Alberobello, as well. Another unique, not-well-known marvel. Italy is full of surprises!
Matera looks like such a cute place! And can I just say, your toddler is ADORABLE!!
Thank you so much! And yes, I highly recommend Matera – such an awesome city!
Bellissima articolo, esattamente cercava.
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