When filmmakers needed a double for the ancient city of Jerusalem, they turned to the region of Basilicata in southern Italy, and the ancient stone town of Matera. This village is all drama—from the story of its abandonment in the 1950s to its scenic position on a ravine dotted with natural limestone caves. The historic heart of Matera, called the sassi, has churches built into caves where stone walls are covered in frescoes.
Today it also has a number of luxury hotels set in cave dwellings that have been transformed into exceptional suites, complete with big bathtubs, raw stone walls, and surprisingly strong Wi-Fi connections. As this is southern Italy, the prices are remarkably affordable for the quality on offer. The following three outstanding properties are all located in the core of the sassi, and all deliver something unique in the cave hotel experience. The atmospheric stone town is reason enough to travel here, but these hotels provide a convincing argument for staying an extra day or two.
Best for: intimate setting, genuinely hospitable hosts, bathtubs for two
Corte San Pietro is the result of the vision of one stylish couple: a five-room boutique property where former cave dwellings are now romantic suites. Fernando and Marisa Ponte are warm and welcoming hosts, often found chatting with guests in the charming stone courtyard over an aperitif. They are excellent guides to the best of Matera, not only suggesting restaurants, but dishing up advice on what to order. Candles flicker on raw stone walls in the peaceful rooms, complete with decadent beds and sheets that encourage sleeping in. Choose a room with a large stone bathtub for the ultimate retreat—the tubs have more than enough room for two. Breakfast here is a leisurely affair that never feels crowded, as there’s only a handful of other rooms.
Sant’Angelo Luxury Resort
Best for: breakfast with a view, full service feel, gorgeous terrace for evening drinks
Sant’Angelo Luxury Resort is built into the maze of stone stairs, narrow walkways, and scenic terraces that make up the ancient heart of Matera, with 23 historical dwellings scattered throughout one area of the sassi. Each space is unique, but the most unforgettable rooms all have softly glowing lighting, raw limestone walls, and delicate, gauzy netting draped around a plush bed. Some rooms also have bathtubs and balconies. Rooms have exterior entrances, giving a stay at this property a residential feel. One moment you’re climbing stairs in the sassi, the next you’re sliding a key in the door to your suite. Start your day here by seeing the way morning light plays on the stones of the sassi with breakfast on the scenic terrace.
Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita
Best for: luxe bathrooms, some with soaking tubs and fireplaces; candlelit spa treatments; massive rooms full of character
The cave dwellings at Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita—with arched ceilings, carved stone walls, and natural wood accents—are some of the largest in the sassi of Matera, with some rooms stretching over 1,700 square feet. This elegant 18-room property also has an ancient church that can be booked in advance for an exclusive dinner lit only by candles and a crackling fireplace. Cooking classes are available, teaching guests how to transform flour and eggs into handmade pasta with just a rolling pin. After a day of exploring Matera on foot, a scenic terrace here is a lovely place to raise an aperitif before dinner.