Matera the European Capital of Culture for 2019

Matera is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is located in the eastern part of the Basilicata region, practically on the border with the region of Puglia. Matera is the second largest city in Basilicata and the largest municipality in the region.

Matera is the European Capital of Culture for 2019. It is the first city in southern Italy to obtain this recognition.

The event will last 48 weeks, starting from January 19. It will cover exhibits ranging from archeology, science, contemporary art and photography, with numerous exhibitions and events.

The calendar of events is available on the official page

The European capital of culture

The European Union initiative for which every year there is a different capital of culture was born in 1985. The first European capital of culture was Athens. Among the Italian cities were Florence in 1986, Bologna in 2000 and Genoa in 2004.

The aim of the initiative is to promote the knowledge of the historical, artistic and cultural heritage of some special cities, giving them international visibility.


Matera is known above all as the city of the sassi (stones), the historic districts recognized in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Sassi are ancient dwellings excavated in the tuff, inhabited since the Neolithic period. The roofs of one serve as a base for new houses that have developed on higher levels.
A dense network of alleys that gives the impression of walking through a stone crib.

Sassi di Matera is the historical part of the city. Most people believe that it is called that way because sassi (or in English stones) comes from the fact that the dwellings are carved into the natural calcarenite rock that is found there. However, the name sassi actually refers to 2 neighborhoods, Civita and Piano, that make up the center of the city.

The sassi are arranged along two valleys dug by the water passage.

The Sasso Barisano, turned to the north-west, is the richest of carved portals and friezes.

The Sasso Caveoso, which instead looks to the south, is called this because it is arranged just like the cavea (Latin for “enclosure”) of a theater, with the cave-houses that descend in steps.

After the Sassi had depopulated, accused of being premodern and hygienically insufficient, they are back, today, overwhelmingly in vogue, thanks to an Urban Recovery Plan that won the European Prize for Urban Planning in 1995.



Civita and Piano

To divide the two valleys there is finally the steep cliff of the Civita with the Romanesque Cathedral of the XIII century.

The Civita is one of the oldest settlements in Matera, a true natural fortress that over time has become the center of the city’s social, economic, political and religious life.

The Piano is the modern historical center of Matera with palaces and churches that testify to the architectural trends that have occurred since the end of the seventeenth century until more recent times.

Matera's Cathedral - Berthold Werner

The Cathedral

Food & Wine

Given the proximity, there are many points in common with Puglia. For example, in agricultural processing (chickpeas, lentils, thistles, artichokes, asparagus, peas). And in the preparation of some dishes such as, for example, orecchiette (a type of pasta), with sauce or with turnip tops.

The proximity with Calabria is instead evident for the use of chili pepper, the so-called diavolicchio (little devil).

Matera’s gastronomic tradition has a strong link the traditional activities of its farmers and shepherds. There are cheeses (pecorino and caciocavallo), cured meats, olives and extra-virgin olive oil.

Lamb and sheep meat, raised in this area, is very common.

A typical dish of Matera’s culture is the Ciallèdd, once a poor meal, today a refined and much appreciated one. It’s based on stale bread seasoned with potatoes, onions, herbs and turnips. Also, the Crapiata is worth a try. It’s a dish based on local vegetables.

But the symbol of local cuisine is the bread of Matera, obtained from the careful processing of durum wheat flour, water, salt and yeast.

In the past, the dough was made by hand at home, while the cooking took place in large public fired ovens.

The families had a stamp with which they marked their own shapes. They had a considerable size because they had to last for several days.

The result is a swollen bread, brown and yellow inside that is preserved for a long time, even for a week.

Among the most famous desserts there are figs with honey and pach’nisch, a dessert prepared with semolina and grape must.

On the tables of Matera there is always, of course, good wine. It goes from reds, such as Primitivo and Aglianico, to white wines G, such as Greco di Matera, to liqueur wines, such as Malvasia and Moscato.



Matera in the movies

The evocative landscape of Matera has inspired countless directors who have decided to film here.

To name a few: The Gospel according to Matthew (1964), a black and white masterpiece by Pier Paolo Pasolini who preferred Matera to Palestine.

Mel Gibson filmed here many of the scenes The Passion (2004).

In 2015  Timur Bekmambetov shot in Materamore the remake of Ben Hur.

As well as some scenes from Quantum of Solace, the 2008 James Bond movie and Wonder Woman (2017).

If you want to visit Matera, book your tour now:

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