Matera: A Sun-Drenched Southern Italian City We’ve Fallen For

Matera: A Sun-Drenched Southern Italian City We’ve Fallen For

Meet Italy’s most magical city, Matera. A sun-drenched landscape decorated with clusters of limestone caves, winding dirt-track roads and great swathes of verdant terrain, this is a must-visit destination for those seeking a romantic retreat


Matera, Italy.

Why now?

Perched atop a rocky outcrop deep within the southern Italian
region of Basilicata lies Matera – oldest town in Italy, Unesco
World Heritage site and Capital of Culture. Less than an hour’s
drive from Puglia, this is a place as historic as it is
romantic. Crumbling limestone villas, narrow cobblestone
passageways and swathes of verdant terrain have seen it treasured
for its unique scenery – Bond fans will no doubt recognise the
location from its starring role in No Time to Die. We skipped
between butter-toned buildings to find the spots that make this a
great destination for a glorious and glamorous getaway.

Follow narrow cobblestone passageways throughout the

Don’t miss

The Sassi caves are what Matera is best known for – a collection
of dwellings carved into the face of the limestone rock. The caves
are spread across two districts, Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano,
seemingly cut into two by the sparkling Gravina River. Inhabited by
the third-oldest continuous civilisation (after Aleppo and
Jericho), this is said to be the only place in the world where
families had lived in the very same house that their ancestors
occupied some 9,000 years ago. But in the 1950s, an outbreak of
malaria resulted in a level of poverty that saw the town considered
the shame of Italy and, in 1952, evacuated, abandoned until the
1980s. Fast forward to today, and a regenerative and fresh wave of
tourism has injected a new lease of life into Matera, and new
respect for the history that the caves hold.

Where to stay?

Chic hotels aplenty have started cropping up across this craggy
landscape. While there are many ultra-luxe snooze-and-spa lodgings
in the maze of the Sassi, we’re obsessed with Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita. Bedrooms
feature stone floors, curvaceous walls and antique furnishings,
while private terraces flaunt undisturbed views across the Murgia
National Park. Come sunset, scrub and soak in your candlelit
freestanding tub, before hopping into a dreamy bed dressed in
handcrafted linen.

The exterior Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita
A softly-lit bedroom in a cave dwelling

Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita tops our must-stay list in
the city.

Where to go for dinner?

Sitting pretty in a quiet street in the heart of the city,
Osteria al
parasol-flanked tables are the perfect spot to twirl
creamy spaghetti on a balmy afternoon. Meanwhile, airy indoor
seating comes with bar-facing seating, braided lights and shelves
stocked with local wines. The restaurant focuses on “cucina
povera”, roughly translated as serving provincial dishes that
champion fresh ingredients. Our order? Burrata with a side of the
tomato-drenched bread ball, followed by a margherita pizza –
simple, but absolutely delicious. Desserts are homemade and vary

And for a drink…

When it comes to limoncello, visitors to Matera are a little
spoilt for choice. There’s Charlie’s Speakeasy which draws crowds for its live
blues music and brilliant spirit blends, and the fairy-light-strewn
courtyard of Area
, where locals dance from dusk till dawn. There’s also the
sultry and sophisticated Radino Wine Bar, which is the sort of place you
want to whip out your best garms for.

Who to take with you?

As much as we love a getaway with our gang, Matera has an
incredibly romantic air about it – even Bond made it his choice for
an intimate retreat. We suggest bringing your main squeeze:
candlelit dinners and local bottles of red await.

Essentials to pack

Whether it’s warm or cold, harsh temperatures can cause dry,
chapped lips. Snag this Sisley Comfort Extreme lip balm to nourish,
soothe and protect. A blend of hazelnut, plum kernel and sunflower
oils combines with a rich shea butter to create some serious

How to get there

Take a direct flight from London Gatwick to Bari Airport, from
where Matera is just under an hour’s drive. Alternatively, jump on
a train from Bari Central Station to Matera – a scenic
less-than-two-hour journey taking in crumbling towns and sprawling

This article was updated on 14 November 2022. It contains
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