Are you heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Matera’s Sassi and the Rupestrian Churches?
Are you trying to decide whether or not to stay in a cave hotel in Matera?
Before you book, read through these 9 things to know based on my travels to Matera along with those of clients and friends.
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Not All Matera Cave Hotels are Created Equal
It’s important to know that not only are Matera’s cave hotels on a budget to luxury spectrum; there are also other accommodation types in Matera. The main types of accommodation you’ll see are:
- Cave Hotels in Matera – hotel in a cave setting, walls are tufo, a type of limestone (not tufa)
- Alberghi Diffusi in Matera – hotel that is spread out in more than one building in the city, but generally in the same area; breakfast served or included at a nearby bar
- Traditional Hotels in Matera – classic hotel that you’re used to, with walls that are perpendicular to the floor!; breakfast served
- Apartments in Matera – self-service accommodation with kitchen facilities
- Luxury Hotels in Matera – 5-star hotels with luxury service and amenities
Helpful Tip: You may assume that all hotels in Matera are cave hotels, but they’re not. And, some may have a lobby or small area with a cave setting, but the hotel is a traditional hotel. Check out photos of the rooms to see that they’re carved out of the tufo.
When you’re deciding on your hotel, make sure you choose the type of cave hotel that best suits you. For example, if you love a big breakfast spread, don’t choose an apartment, because you’ll be responsible for your own breakfast. And, if you’d love a swimming pool (rare in Matera), seek those out (the indoor cave pools are amazing!).
Good To Know: Many hotels fall into multiple categories. For example, Sextantio Grotte della Civita is a cave hotel that’s also an albergo diffuso. And Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa is a luxury cave hotel.
It’s Best to Stay in the Sassi
You can see on the map above that Matera’s a large city – and you want to sleep in the old part of the city (Sasso Barisano, Sasso Caveoso, Civita).
The sassi (Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso) are the areas with the cave hotels. Civita is also part of the old city (it was the noble area), but you’ll find traditional hotels there (more on that below).
It’s nice to be ‘in the action’ and to call the beautiful sassi your home for the night, especially when you’re walking around in the evening and the buildings are all lit up. You’ll be able to reach the sites and churches on foot.
Staying in the sassi (versus in the Piano area or the rest of modern Matera) is kind of like staying in Venice for the night versus staying in Venice Mestre.
Staying in a Cave Hotel is Worth It
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably planning on staying in one. Staying in a cave hotel in Matera is a truly unique experience, for kids, adults, and everyone inbetween.
I appreciate cave hotels for the setting, the uniqueness, that fact that they’re close to everything in Matera, and they’re gorgeous in the evening.
Matera in the Past: Want to know what it was really like living in a cave in Matera? Visit Vico Solitario to see where and how a family of 11 lived in the sassi. Or, see the film at Casa Noha that includes scenes from everyday life in the sassi.
Factor Parking Costs into Your Cave Hotel Budget
You’ll love staying in the sassi, but parking can be a pain and it’s pricey.
I recommend factoring parking into your hotel cost (we paid around €20/night on our recent trip to Matera) when you’re looking at options for your cave hotel stay.
Speak to your hotel about the best parking option for your hotel’s location.
Think Twice About Walking To and From Your Cave Hotel
Check in with your hotel about the best parking options. Hotels often have shuttle services from parking garages.
I’ve walked to hotels from parking garages and taken taxis (or shuttles). I highly recommend taking a taxi or shuttle. Even though the distance may not seem great (“Oh, 400 meters is nothing – let’s go!”), the many steps, slippery surfaces, and hot temperatures can make the journey unpleasant.
There’s not a main taxi number in Matera like you find in many other Italian cities, but you can get a number from your Matera hotel (or ask if they have a shuttle).
Be Aware of Cave Hotel Quirks
While it’s very exciting to stay in a cave hotel, it’s important to be aware of a few things:
- Moisture – I could feel moisture in the morning on our toiletries, shoes, and other objects.
- Noise from Dehumidifier – Many cave hotels have dehumidifiers that run constantly, and they aren’t silent. You can turn them off at night, but then you’ll be dealing with a lot of moisture in the room.
- Low Ceilings – If you’re tall, this can be an issue. I’m only 5’9” and I’ve hit my head a few times!
- Small or Non-Existent Windows – You may only see natural light from the door of your cave room, and possibly not even then.
- Other Quirks – Your shower may not have a curtain; you likely have to walk outside to get to reception or other hotel areas; lots of steps leading to and from cave hotels and rooms; storage (like closets) may be limited.
- No On-Site Parking – Less of a ‘quirk,’ and more of a pain, but it’s good to know that you’ll need to leave your rental car in a lot or garage and transfer to your hotel by taxi, shuttle, or your two feet. Some hotels in the sassi advertise parking, but it’s off-site. And don’t try to drive into the historic center without permission – it’s part of a ZTL and you’ll be fined.
Civita is an Alternative to the Sassi
Civita is the ‘noble’ area of Matera and it sits on a hill between the two sassi. While you won’t find the characteristic cave hotels like you do in the sassi di Matera (Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso), you’ll still be nestled in the narrow old streets and charm of Matera.
This is a great option if you’re not sold on a cave hotel stay, or you’re staying for a longer period of time and want to be ‘in the action’ but also have a more comfortable stay.
If I was planning a stay longer than a few days with my family, I’d book a hotel in Civita.
Lower Your 5-Star Hotel Expectations for Matera Cave Hotels
One of the biggest complaints I hear about luxury hotels in Matera is about small things that just aren’t easy to make happen in the sassi. For example, there’s not space for a large outdoor swimming pool, your room’s ceiling may be low (watch your head!), and you may not have amenities like a large sitting area, a garden or grassy area, or on-site parking.
There are still luxury cave hotels in Matera, but they may not have every ‘luxury’ you’re used to.
Don’t Plan on Doing Day Trips From Your Matera Cave Hotel
If you want to stay in a cave hotel in Matera, use it as a base to visit Matera, not the region.
Why? It’s a big pain to get to and from your car during the day, so I recommend leaving your car in the parking garage until you’re ready to depart from Matera.
Or, hire a private driver (NCC – noleggio con conducente) to take you to some of Matera’s nearby sites.
More Things to Think About When Booking a Cave Hotel in Matera
Aside from the quirks mentioned above, you may also want to think about:
- Noise from Street – Matera can be lively in the evening, with people out walking and eating at outdoor restaurants. If noise bothers you, book a cave hotel off the main street.
- Outdoor Seating – Whether it’s a private terrace or common outdoor area, I think it’s important to have an option to sit outside when you’re back at your hotel. You’ll want the fresh air and it’s nice to have a place to enjoy the views of Matera.
- Cave Hotels with Kids – Are your kids old enough to appreciate the experience? Is there enough space in the room? Can you book adjoining rooms? Are your kids ok with a lot of steps and walking? Do your children have any issues with moisture or mold?
The Best Cave Hotels in Matera
Sant’Angelo Luxury Resort – This is the prime luxury hotel in the sassi of Matera. It’s in my favorite area to stay (right next to Piazza San Pietro Caveoso) and has gorgeous views of Matera, especially in the evening. Choose a cave room or a normal room, and enjoy views from the cave rooms (rare – cave rooms usually don’t have windows). It’s also just a 5-minute walk from Matera’s Michelin-starred Vitantonio Lombardo Ristorante.
Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa – Another gorgeous hotel in Matera with a dramatic swimming pool set in a cave. It’s a very bright hotel and the rooms are spacious, which isn’t a given in Matera.
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita – A 4-star experience, and a favorite of clients. It’s simple (maybe too simple for some – check out photos of the rooms), the stone walls aren’t perfect, which I love because it makes the stay feel more authentic. The outdoor spaces (it’s an albergo diffuso) are inviting and worth spending time in. Not all amenities are comfortable (like having a bathtub and shower head but no shower curtain or doors), but for a 1-2 night stay, this is one of my favorite cave hotels in Matera.
Caveoso Hotel – We recently stayed here and it’s a prime spot for a family stay. The location (just off of Piazza San Pietro) is great for reaching everywhere you want to go in Matera, it’s quiet (good for sleeping), there are cave room options, the breakfast was ample and high-quality, and the staff at reception was so helpful. There are family rooms that sleep 4, or you can ask for adjoining rooms.
Hotel Corte San Pietro – Located on Via Bruno Buozzi, home of many restaurants and cafes with outdoor terraces and seating. Lively area but the hotel manages to stay quiet and tranquil. I love that this hotel has real bathtubs and beautiful views from some of the private terraces – perfect for enjoying a glass of wine or nice book (in the bath or on the terrace!). Note that some of the rooms have two levels – avoid if you have little kids with you.
Le Dimore dell’Idris – Excellent location next to the Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris (probably the most recognized cave church in Matera, perched high on the rocks next to the ravine and the Murgia Materana Park). The hotel is set above street level, so you have nice views of the city. Families can ask for adjoining cave rooms. There are also non-cave rooms (so if you really want one, make sure to that’s what you reserve).
More Cave Hotels to Check Out:
There are plenty of cave hotels available on Booking.com if you don’t see one above that works for you.
Enjoy visiting Matera and I hope you have a fabulous experience staying in a cave hotel!
Matera Italy Cave Hotels FAQ
Daniel Craig stayed at Palazzo Gattini, a 5-star luxury hotel in the Civita area of Matera. Palazzo is not a cave hotel, but a palace hotel overlooking the sassi.
Carlo Levi, author of Christ Stopped at Eboli, visited Matera while he was living in the village he was exiled to, nearby Aliano.
Yes, you could stay in a trullo or masseria in Puglia.