Last updated on May 22nd, 2023
Are you planning on visiting Matera with your kids but are overwhelmed with all of the things to do? Do you need help deciding where to stay in Matera with your kids?
I get it – it’s kind of a confusing place – but I’ll help clear things up below and get you set with the ‘must-see’ places in Matera if you’re visiting with little ones.
It’s important to have a plan for Matera because it’s a hilly city full of steps, there are so many things to do and see (but not all are great for kids), and you’ll want to keep your kids interested.
Matera is an incredible city, and with a little prep work, a visit will be memorable and fun for everyone in your family!
You may want to read our general Guide to Matera, Italy
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Where is Matera?
Matera is a small city in the Basilicata region of Italy, close to the border with Puglia (another area worth exploring with your kids).
You can see the main areas of Matera shaded on the map. The borders aren’t exact, but this should help give you an idea of the layout of the city:
- Sasso Barisano (blue)
- Sasso Caveoso (purple)
- Civita (yellow)
- Piano (red)
The sassi (rocks) – Barisano and Caveoso are the ‘cave’ parts of town, Civita is the upper part of town that sits between the sassi (where ther wealthy of Matera lived), and Piano is the more modern part of Matera. You’ll probably spend time in all of these areas as they are easily walkable, even with kids.
Map of Matera, Italy
Why Visit Matera with Kids
Matera is magical, day and night, for kids and adults. It’s one of my top picks for Places to Visit in Italy with Kids.
As a parent, I love visiting places like Matera that capture my interest and fascinate my kids.
It’s a place full of:
- history – it’s one of the oldest settlements on Earth!
- interesting architecture (homes and churches built into the tufa rock)
- delicious food
- landmarks and activities that kids enjoy exploring
- unique accommodations (caves)
The Best Time to Visit Matera with Kids
The winter is quiet in Matera, but if you’re okay with some shops and restaurants being closed, it’s still a magical place to visit.
How Long to Spend in Matera with Kids
Matera deserves at least two days and one night. It’s a lot of fun to spend the night in a cave hotel, and the city is beautiful in the evening when it’s all lit up.
I personally wouldn’t spend more than a couple of days in Matera with my kids – while it’s an interesting place to visit, it is a lot of work with smaller kids and there are only so many cave churches they’ll want to visit!
Matera makes a nice add-on to a family trip to nearby Puglia (beaches, trulli, small whitewashed towns) – either at the front or back end.
Best Things to Do in Matera with Kids
Go On a Private Walking Tour of Matera
Having someone give you an insider’s look at Matera is worth the cost, and this tour is private, so you can tweak it to your family’s needs. Ask all the questions you have and steer the conversation toward the interests of your kids (how the caves were built, what kids’ daily lives were like, etc).
Visit the Casa Noha
This is an audio-visual introduction to Matera that’s suitable for kids and adults. It shows you historic videos and photos of the history of Matera and what life was like living in the caves.
If you decide to visit Casa Noha, do it right away. If you are going on a walking tour, you don’t think you need to do both.
Good To Know: My 5-year-old enjoyed this, but there were parts that didn’t hold his attention. If you have kids that need to move around, skip this, as there’s quite a bit of sitting, watching the movies, and listening.
See What Cave Living Was Like at Vico Solitario
On our recent trip, this was the most meaningful and memorable stop for my 5-year-old. You step inside a tiny cave dwelling (the family left in the 1950s) and listen to a recording of what daily life was like for the family of 11(!) that lived in the space.
This is a good stop because kids can relate – they see the bed, where the kids slept, the ‘toilet,’ where the water came into the cave, the kitchen, and more.
There’s also a guide in the room, so kids can ask questions.
This was one of my favorite things to see in Matera and I’d classify it as a ‘must-see’ with kids.
Walk Up to the Church of Saint Mary of Idris
There are so many churches in Matera, so I suggest choosing one or two to visit with your kids. The Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris is a good one because it’s a landmark that you can see from many places in the city (“Look kids – we climbed up there!).
It’s not a tough climb – it’s on stones and steps up to the church, and it took us about 5 minutes (with a couple of pauses to check out bugs and views).
Once you’re at the top, you can pay the small fee to enter and see the frescoes. Then, don’t just head back down – check out the ‘piazza’ and walk amost all the way around the church. There are nice views of the city and the cave churches on the other side of the river valley.
Important: Like everywhere else in Matera, there are a lot of drop offs and rocky sections sticking out (watch your head while walking around).
The other churches that are good options for kids are the Chiesa del Purgatorio (check out all of the skulls!) and the Chiesa di Santa Lucia alle Malve (for the frescoes, including one of Mary breastfeeding).
Find Your Kids’ Favorite Viewpoint
There are so many! It may be of a small piazza hidden in the Sassi, Matera from the Murgia Materana Natural Park, or from a high terrace overlooking the Sassi. Challenge your kids to find the best viewpoint.
- Belvedere di Piazza Giovanni Pascoli
- The rocky area surrounding the Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris
- Belvedere Murgia Timone
- Belvedere Guericchio
Stroll the Via del Corso
The evening is a nice time to bring your kids to stroll the Via del Corso and Via Domenico Ridola. This is in the more modern part of the city, the Piano, and it’s full of shops, restaurants, and our favorite gelateria, I Vizi degli Angeli!
You’ll also find lots of other little kids playing in the Piazza San Francesco, in front of the Church of St. Francis d’Assisi.
Good To Know: Piazza San Francesco is on a raised surface (car-free), but it’s not fenced and limited traffic does drive around the edge of the piazza, so still watch your kids closely.
Walk in the Regional Park of the Murgia Materana
After you’ve spent time in the caves and streets of the city of Matera, bring your kids to nature in the Regional Park of the Murgia Materana, just on the other side of the valley (to the east).
Here you can explore the park on its trails, visit cave churches, and walk to an epic viewpoint.
Heads Up: There is no shade in the park, and it gets very hot in Matera in the summer. Don’t visit during the day in the summer!
If you’ve got kids with you (and you’re not with a guide), I recommend parking in the main lot here and walking the 1.7 kilometers to the viewpoint (you have to walk because you can’t drive past the barrier). It’s stroller friendly for most of the walk, which finishes in a large paved lot (Belvedere Murgia Timone). From there, you can walk on trails (no strollers) to the viewpoint (GPS coordinates here, but you’ll see others walking down and back).
Important: There are drop offs at the final viewpoint and in the area, and there aren’t good fences. If you have small children who don’t listen well or run off, stay in the paved lot (Belvedere Murgia Timone) and enjoy the view.
If you want to take your kids to see a cave church, walk to the Chiesa Rupestre di Madonna delle Tre Porte. This is a good option because even if the gate is closed, you can still peek in and see the church and frescoes (some of the other churches in the park are fenced further back so you can’t really peek inside).
Then, walk back up the hill to the paved lot and back to your car along the paved 1.7km path.
Good To Know: There are toilets in the building next to the main parking lot where you leave your car.
Make Time for a Playground
Sometimes kids just want to run around at the playground. Your best bet for a playground if you’re based in the center is the small park in the Villa Comunale. There are swings, a climbing structure, a slide, and a couple of spring toys. There is some shade (not a lot), along with benches and a water fountain.
Stop by the Sassi in Miniatura
This is another nice way to get a feel for Matera and what the sassi look like from above. Tons of details and a fun quick stop for kids (and adults).
See Modern Art at MUSMA
If you have a longer visit to Matera, or kids who are interested in modern art, stop in at MUSMA to see contemporary are in a dramatic cave setting.
Explore the Palombaro Lungo
Take a quick walk with your kids in this gigantic underground water cistern. Perfect on a hot day! One of the amazing things about this place is that it was only discovered in 1991 – when the piazza above was being worked on.
My Tips for Visiting Matera with Kids
- Have a Plan – Matera has a fairly small center but there are a lot of ups and downs on streets and steps which can be exhausting for kids. Have a basic idea of the things you want to see and then mark them on a map (digital or paper from your hotel) and group visits to places in similar areas.
- Wear Shoes with Good Traction – Matera’s old stone streets and steps are worn and slippery. This isn’t the place for slick soles!
- Pick One Church – The Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris is nice because it’s a landmark, it’s in a cave, and it’s fun to get to the top and see the views.
- Prep Kids on Matera – Either read, watch videos, or have family discussions before you arrive in Matera, or visit Casa Noha or Vico Solitario when you arrive. You can also let your older kids and teens watch movies that have Matera as a set (like James Bond’s No Time to Die).
- Keep a Close Eye – Matera has many obstacles and dangers like slippery steps, drop offs, or railings that kids can fit through.
- Spend the Night – It’s really fun to spend the night in a cave, and kids love it. But, you don’t need much more for little kids. I wouldn’t want to spend a week in a cave hotel with my kids (moisture, small space, have to be careful of kids not falling or hitting head on parts of cave).
- Bring a Baby Carrier – Matera isn’t stroller friendly. Yes, there are places you can push a stroller, but you’ll be much happier with a carrier as you’ll be able to explore so much more (lots of steps!).
- Changing Diapers – We saw quite a few changing tables in bathrooms in Matera. Still, bring a portable changing mat for on-the-go diaper changes.
- Avoid Sightseeing in the Heat – Avoid summer trips to Matera with kids when possible. If you’re visiting in the summer, try to tour around in the morning and the evening (totally possible and enjoyable) and spend the hot hours midday in restaurants or relaxing at your hotel.
Eating in Matera with Kids
Foods to Try in Matera
- Pane di Matera – kids love Matera’s bread!
- Crapiata – bean and grain soup
- Caciocavallo cheese – traditional cheese made from cow, sheep, or buffalo milk
- Pasta – cavatelli and orecchiette
Where to Eat with Kids in Matera
I usually do a lot of picnicking when traveling with my kids, but we really enjoyed eating in restaurants in Matera. There’s something special about eating in a cave or at an outdoor table with views of the sassi that captures the attention of little ones (and makes them behave little ladies and gentlemen!).
We saw highchairs and changing tables at many restaurants.
- Keiv Ristorante – reserve a table with a view and when your kids are finished, let them play near you in the piazza; we loved the cavatelli and the crapiata
- Trattoria del Caveoso – go-to for delicious local food; reserve one of the few outdoor tables; good people-watching spot in the evenign
- I Sapori Senza Glutine – gluten-free option with pasta, pizza, and more; next to the Villa Comunale playground
- I Vizi degli Angeli – our favorite stop for gelato in Matera; I kept returning for the pineapple/ginger and the chocolate, my son preferred the homemade ice cream bars
Where to Stay in Matera with Kids
A huge draw of Matera for kids is spending the night in a cave!
It’s a unique experience and there are some amazing hotels in Matera, in both the Sasso Barisano and the Sasso Caveoso.
I recommend staying in the sassi – amazing atmosphere and you’re close to everything – landmarks, restaurants, shops, etc.
Heads Up: Cave hotels are fun to stay in, but they’re not super comfortable to stay in with a family for a long period of time. I think one or two nights is the sweet spot for staying in a cave with kids. Read our post on Things to Know About Matera Cave Hotels.
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.
More hotels in the sassi that work well for families (with either enough beds in one room, apartments, or adjoining rooms available:
- Le Dimore dell’Idris – ask for adjoining cave rooms
- Da Zia Lalla – stay in an apartment, fabulous views
- L’Infinito dei Sassi – they have a room that sleeps 6, or you can ask for adjoining rooms
- La Dimora delle 3 Zie – family room available
- Piano Piano – large rooms available, nice if you want a ‘non-cave’ room
- Acqua Dolce – suites or apartments
Matera with Kids FAQ
I wouldn’t bring small kids on the ponte tibetano. At the time of writing, the bridge is closed. On our recent trip into the Regional Park of the Murgia Materana, I spoke with a crew that was out monitoring a large piece of the stone wall (on the northern part of valley) that was unstable and likely to fall down.
Sure, if you’d like to! There are so many churches in Matera – you could spend days visiting them. I recommend choosing at least one cave church (aka rupestrian church) to visit with your kids as they’re unique. We like the Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria di Idris and the Chiesa di Santa Lucia delle Malve.