Matera Itinerary: Amazing Places Near the Cave City

Explorations of Southern Basilicata

Everyone flocks to Matera, where there is certainly many things to see and do. The unhealthy caves have turned into luxury hotels and expensive spas. From Matera many tourists have a tendency to head into Puglia. The fact that Matera is their only stop in Basilicata annoys me. There are things to see and do before you hit the highway into Puglia. Head to Bernalda, the Naval of Basilicata and make it the hub for an exploration of the wonders along the Ionian Sea.

Basilicata Itinerary Map

Matera is in the middle of the map; there are two major destinations to the north, in Puglia, and six to the south near the Ionian Sea. Need to get to Matera from Bari? Here are the options on public transportation: Bari to Matera.

basilicata itinerary map

So let's say you're in Matera, you've explored much of Matera's underground, and you'd like to see some compelling bits of Basilicata before heading home or heading to Puglia. Here are some of my suggestions.

A short itinarary would be to head down to Bernalda and plan to stay a few days. You'll want to get to the Ionian sea, where you might wander the ancient site of Metaponto, and perhaps swim at the beach. If you have a car, it's a short drive. But you can do the trip on public transportation. The number 344 SITA bus will take you from the bus station in Matera to Bernaldo in a mere 50 minutes on every day except Sunday in the evenings.

You can drive from Matera to Bernalda in 38 minutes.

You can stay at Francis Ford Coppola's place in Bernalda if you have some serious cash on you, but we recommend lodging at the far less expensive The Hotel Giardino Giamperduto, a friendly B&B that once housed a cheese making operation.

From Bernaldo you can drive to the modern town of Metaponto in 14 minutes, or you can take a bus that only goes once a day to the town and walk to Ancient Metaponto (see your options). You can also walk to the beach from Metaponto.

aliano calanchi

You might also yead least towards my favorite ghost town in Italy, Craco. You might stop at attractive ridge-top town of Pisticci on the way, the second largest city in the province after Matera and producer of Amaro Lucano, the famous bitter  liqueur you'll see in nearly every bar in Italy. You also have the option of continuing on to see Aliano. Aliano was the town where Carlo Levi was exiled. You can visit his house and see the stunning landscape he wrote about in his book Christ stopped at Eboli, which includes an awe-inspiring drop into a valley that farmers and shepherds had to navigate every day, as you can see on the right.

These "rock" formations you see, mainly of clay, are called Calanchi, refering to the deep furrows along the side of a mountain or hill. The area is full of this geology. These badlands are preserved in the Regional Reserve of the Calanchi of Montalbano Jonico marked on the map. The roads through the Basilicata badlands have been used in many high perforance car commercials.

There are paths and tracks in the badlands of Montalbano, most are old mule paths, which can be comfortably walked through by tourists.

As the hills-and-mountains of the Basilicata interior drop from the high plateau around Potenza towards the Ionian coast the terrain becomes increasingly arid, traversed by calanchi—peculiar geological formations of eroded clay that form an off-white lunar landscape, dotted with low shrubs and dribbled with surreal clay crenellations. The effect is startling, if a bit unsettling: steep sculpturesque gullies and angular ribbed ridges gouge across valleys and spill over hillsides, stretching away to the horizon. The bizarre calanchi are dotted with towns perched precariously on outcrops of subsiding clay. Many are abandoned, either fully or partially—on my last visit I passed through Craco (fully abandoned), Rabatana di Tursi (mostly) and Aliano (partially). -- The Basilicata Badlands by Rudston Steward

Basilicata & Puglia Highlights in Pictures

Click the pictures to learn more about the attractions of Puglia near Matera and southern Basilicata.

altamura bread

Pane di Altamura

Altamura is a fine town in Puglia to wander around. But please, try the bread. Have a panino made with it for lunch or snack. The DOP designation tells you this bread and the flour used can't be replicated elsewhere. Click the picture to find out more about this amazing bread and where to find it.

gravina in puglia

Gravina in Puglia

The honeyed tones of this limestone city are most evident during the "golden hour" near dusk, Take the underground visit to see how houses are fashioned by removing the limestone in blocks, creating a "basement" or cantina where cheese and wine can be stored, and providing blocks for the walls of the building. 

metaponto temple hera

Metaponto, Temple of Hera

Greeks settled along the Ionean coast and built towns and temples, the best of them are at Metaponto. The Temple of Here is also known as the Palatine Tables, a Greek temple which dates from the 6th century bc.


Craco, a Ghost Town

Craco is an abandoned ghost town that has been in many movies, films and commercials, including the hanging of Judas scene in The Passion of the Christ and some scenes in Quantum of Solace. It, and the surrounding landscape, is stunning.

But Basilicata isn't only about older travelers living out their romantic impulses in cave dwellings. Imagine, if you will, being strapped into a four-seat glider attached to a 1200 meter steel cable and launched in a free fall back down into the wilds of Pollino National Park,. You and three strangers could fly like the park's famed golden eagles looking for field mice to eat. Imagine! In fact, the attraction is called: Flight of the Eagle.

When to go to Basilicata

If you're a beach person looking to lay out on an Ionian beach, be aware that summers will be hot and beaches  crowded. September and October is usally good for nice temperatures and October is when we got the great cloud pictures above. May into June is pleasant as well.

Historic Temperature Chart For Metapointo, Basilicata

metoponto historic temperature chart

Weather Forecast for Metaponto, Basilicata