Matera, a small ancient city found in southern Italy, in the region of Basilicata, has been chosen as the Cultural Capital of Europe (2019). Believed to be the third-oldest inhabited settlement in the world, today, Matera is enchanting and well worthy of this title.

Rich in history dating as far back as 8,000 years when farmers, shepherds and their animals lived in caves called sassi, meaning stones in Italian. These famous stone caves are now where you will find restaurants, bars, hotels, and souvenir stores.

Image courtesy of Lonely Planet.

Matera’s highland plateaus are characterised by deep fault fissures, ravines, rocks and caves. The famous Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were acknowledged by Unesco for their magnificent “Rupestrian” churches which feature ancient rock paintings dating back centuries.

Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera

In more modern times the people of Matera strive to improve their ancient city, making changes to embrace modern ideas. Their motto as the Cultural Capital of Europe is “Open Future”. An example of this is the new Open Design School established to promote new ideas. The school works towards creating new concepts such as luxury cave accommodation and restaurants to attract new visitors to the city.

So how is Matera celebrating the Cultural Capital of the World recognition?

Matera began its celebrations in January with traditional lighting ceremonies, followed by an grand parade of musicians from all around the world marching through the streets. Many exhibitions, festivals and parties will be held throughout the year to highlight the beauty of this ancient city.

To co-incide with this momentous event Vita Italian Tours will visit this breathtaking ancient city as part of its sold-out September tour, The Spectacular South - Puglia, Abruzzo & Matera. Travellers will have the opportunity to stay in a luxury Cave hotel in Matera and be able to marvel at the cave houses, churches with their ancient rock paintings, as well as many other beautiful attractions, both in the old and new part of town. Bookings are already being taken for the 2020 & 2021 departures.

Click here for the full tour details.

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