Architecture Travel

Matera: The City of Stones

By on 1st May 2017

Before, during and after every Game of Thrones season articles pop up about all the stunning sights where the series has been filmed. They’re all worth a visit obviously, but if you’ve already seen Dubrovnik and Girona, we would like to suggest another famous Hollywood film location to visit. There’s a city in Italy that’s been the décor of dozens of movie productions, like Ben Hur and The Passion. Its name is Matera, also known as the City of Stones.  

The Italian town is situated in the region of Basilicata and is one of the most ancient cities in the world. Humans have lived here from the Paleolithic Age until modern times. That’s why it is an extraordinary history page, written by mankind over several millenniums. Besides the history it also has some remarkable landscapes, an enviable culinarian tradition, and the city is notorious for its warm welcome.

In 1993 the City of Stone became world Heritage thanks to UNESCO and it has obtained the title of World Capital of Culture in 2019 too. Everything is due to the suggestive atmosphere of its stones and natural caves dug into the rock and shaped into more complex structures, lasting for thousands of years. People, in fact, took advantage of landscape simplicity for building homes in levels and a big net of invisible underground tunnels to carry the water.


After Prehistory, the coming of Christianity characterized Matera. So that during Middle Age lots of worship places popped up, like the majestic Matera Cathedral raised at the top of the hill of the city. The view was witness of a metamorphosis in this period, thanks to the building of a small emigrant community after Iconoclasm. They took shelter in the natural caves exploited as homes and especially as locations of prayers. So, not by chance, many film directors used Matera as the scenography of their movies. We can name a few: The Passion by Mel Gibson, Ben Hur by Timur Bekmambetov, Nativity by Catherine Hardwicke, King David by Bruce Beresford, Il Vangelo secondo Matteo by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and others.

Matera’s stones rise on a slope of a canyon that was excavated by the Gravina creek. On the other side we find a natural history archeologic park: Parco Della Murgia. Its landscape reminds of the original and wild context, where this city was born. Many excursions are organized to admire Gravina creek from an exciting Tibetan bridge and the beautiful Murgia Lookout, in which stones’ panorama can literally astonish you.

Visiting Matera
There’s not a typical season for visiting Matera. Every part of the year can offer different sensations to the tourists. In the coldest months you can admire the snow on the stones, feeling like in a Christmas crib as happened this year, when an awesome wave of frost invested Italy.

Two purposes are the most common for visiting Matera. The first is feeling comfortable, going in a place out of time, tasting that beautiful quietness of simple life free from frenetic cities. The second, for cinema addict of those who search for strong point of a place, is landing on one of the most famous Hollywood sets, without the need of moving far making hours of voyage to arrive in America.