Matera, Southern Italy
A romantic cave hotel in rural Italy where past meets present in a spectacular and unforgettable setting
Le Grotte della Civita is a truly unique hotel, set in the
troglodytic, Unesco-listed town of Matera. Its old quarters
(sassi) are built into and over limestone caves, and
interwoven by narrow cobbled streets. Inhabited since prehistoric
times, these remarkable underground spaces include rock-hewn
churches and many half-carved, half-built dwellings looking out
onto the arresting Gravina gorge.
The hotel itself consists of 18 such cave rooms and a restaurant, all renovated over 10 years with obsessive attention to detail and utter respect for the past. We arrived on a misty night and opened our gnarled wooden door to find a 6-metre high vault flickering with 100 candles, like our own private cathedral - a truly sensational first impression. Recycled wooden furniture, carved crosses and cosy nooks are the only visible decoration; but closer examination reveals concealed spotlights in the walls, underfloor heating beneath the time-worn cobblestones, and an oversize egg-shaped Starck bathtub in the depths!
With fantastic breakfasts, friendly English-speaking service from Michele and Roberta, wonderful trattorie and gelaterie on your doorstep, and ancient rock churches to explore in the gorge, it's a fantastic and restorative break from your day-to-day travails.
Reviewed by Michael Cullen
- The caves themselves are an architectural triumph, and the sense of silence is almost spiritual
- The extreme attention to detail makes this much more than a hotel in a cave – there’s a true cultural element to it, too
- Wandering the narrow streets and walking around the prehistoric landscape offers a taste of rural Italy you won’t find elsewhere
- But Matera is not just caves and old churches: there's a new town with cool boutiques, fountained squares and buzzing eateries
- Hotel breakfasts are delicious: home-baked cakes, handmade jams, herb-dusted cheeses
- It’s pretty hard to find and some visitors have spent hours looking for it. Be sure to bring the detailed directions
- Not great if you’re tall (over 6ft) as some caves have low roofs, and uneven floors may be a problem if you’re unsteady on your feet
- No twin rooms
- Limited mod cons: no TVs or minibars or the like, though amazingly there's WiFi throughout
- It's quite expensive, especially in busy periods (April, May & August) when rates double
A labyrinth of 18 cave rooms and restaurant, all graceful vaulted archways, carved stone walls and underfloor heating...The Observer