The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Murgia Materana Park is one of the most important attractions in the region of Basilicata. Located near the Sassi di Matera, the park is famous for its prehistoric sites, rupestrian churches, and varied wildlife—and is a fascinating testament to the historic relationship between humans and nature.
The regional park of Murgia Materana (Parco della Murgia Materana), officially known as the Parco Archeologico Storico Naturale delle Chiese Rupestri del Materano, covers about 27 square miles (70 square kilometers) of land between the towns of Matera and Montescaglioso in southern Italy. Its landscape is dotted with soft limestone cliffs, gorges, and caves that humans have used for shelters since the Neolithic age. During the Byzantine period, more than 150 rock (or rupestrian) churches were created, some later taken over by Benedictine monks and other religious orders, and others becoming private homes or even sheep sheds. Today the park includes the remainders of these rock churches, three villages dating from the prehistoric age—Murgecchia, Murgia Timone, and Trasanello—and a number of beautiful natural features like the Gravina River.
Due to its size and unique history, it’s best to explore the Murgia Materana Park with an expert guide who can put the natural and man-made highlights into context and access cave churches normally closed to the public. Most tours depart from the nearby town of Matera and include transportation to and from the park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A tour of Murgia Materana Park is particularly interesting for fans of prehistoric archaeology.
- Magnificent views make the park a photographer’s paradise.
- Park tours require walking over uneven terrain, so wear sturdy shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
- Because of the rough terrain, the park is not accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Murgia Materana Park is located in the province of Matera just outside the famous cliff town; the visitor center is on Via Sette Dolori. There is no public transportation for the 30-minute drive between the town and park, so join a guided tour that includes transportation.
When to Get There
Murgia Materana Park is open daily year-round. Southern Italy can be very hot in the summer, so if visiting between June and September, plan to tour the park in the early morning or late afternoon.
The Sassi di Matera
The Sassi di Matera are two areas of the cliff-top city of Matera known for their ancient cave dwellings that still house private residents as well as hotels, restaurants, and museums. Together with Murgia Materana Park, the Sassi di Matera are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.