Okay, this the transparent attempt of a traveller – to start dreaming about a place before an upcoming trip by imagining the place, digging thorough old photos, etc. Tomorrow, I’m off to Matera for my annual mecca to the Women’s Fiction Festival, and I’m anxious to be back to this beautiful southern Italian town.
Over my years at the Fiction Festival and as a tourist to the region before that, I’ve stayed in a lot of wonderful cave hotels in this Basilicata-region town – and thought I’d share my tips with you. For an overview on Matera’s history and what there is to see, see my earlier post.
Here are some hotels I suggest – ranging over all budgets:
Hotel Sassi – Admittedly, my stay here was was back in 1999, when this was the first and only hotel back in the sassi (cave) district of Matera. But I’ve been back to see it and it seems to still be a popular option with visitors. The location in the Sasso Barisano is spectacular, with the breakfast terrace offering a stunning view over the cave city. Rooms carved into the caves are simple but functional, and this remains a good budget option.
Hotel Caveoso – I stayed here two years ago and this three-star, mid-budget option is another good bet. This hotel is located in the Sasso Caveoso. Mine was a comfortable cave room with a beautiful balcony where I loved to sit and write.
This hotel is situated perfectly for exploring the nearby rupestrian churches, although you’ll do lots of walking up and down the stairs leading to the main piazza and the cathedral. At least I walked off all the great food I ate. Breakfast in the lobby is simple, but adequate. Another good option in Matera.
Hotel Gattini– This renovated 18th century palace, now a five-star hotel, was once the residence of the Gattini family. It’s just on the main piazza, overlooking the Duomo (cathedral). I stayed here last year and was planning to stay again this year, but I must have waited too long – only the suites were available. And for that amount of money, I’d rather jet off to Tahiti. : )
The pluses of this hotel were the wonderful location, the excellent design of the renovated rooms, and the friendly front-desk staff. I also adored the hotel terrace, with its views over the sassi, and spent (very happy) time out here writing (and dreaming). There was also a spa, which I didn’t use, but it looked fabulous.
I was a bit disappointed with a few minor aspects. My room was always made up late in the day and the breakfast was only adequate and the staff were extremely slow to clean up neighboring tables, so it often became a hunt for a clear table. So, while I enjoyed my stay and do recommend the Gattini, I also wasn’t heartbroken to try out a new place this year.
Palazzo Viceconte– This is my hotel for this year. I saw it wandering around in Matera last year, and it’s just down a side street from the Hotel Gattini.
This four-star hotel has been fully renovated, and was originally the palazzo of the Venusio family. The Venusio arrived in Matera in the mid-fifteenth century and played an important role in the Otranto campaign against the Ottomans (in nearby Puglia). They began construction on this grand home at the end of the 16th century, although work was not finalized until the end of the eighteenth century.
With the decline of the Venusio family in the last century, the Viceconte family purchased the palazzo and undertook renovations. I love a place with history, so I’m excited to be staying here. And I saw the hotel terrace perched next to my terrace at the Gattini last year, so I know it will offer a spectacular view.
So, lots of ideas for your Matera stay. Choose your cave and book your tickets!