My first introduction to the Sassi di Matera in Matera, Italy was through a search for eco-friendly places to stay in Italy. Sextantio Le Grotte delle Civita was fascinating to me because of the concept. They took a carefully chosen group of caves and restored them using period details and materials that I knew I had to see it for myself.
The hotel itself has no distinguishing features letting you know that you've arrived, no glaring signs or large awnings. The only evidence is a small, unassuming waist-high metal gate with a small sign bearing the hotel’s name. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you’ll most certainly miss it.
The hotel is an exercise in the restoration of a series of caves that overlook the valley of Parco della Murgia Materana below. The Sassi di Matera, deemed a UNSECO World Heritage Site in 1993, is known as la Citta Sotterranea (the Subterranean City) because of the hundreds of cave dwellings inhabited by the people who have lived there, in some form, since prehistoric times.
From the main road below, Via Madonna delle Virtu, Sextantio is only accessible via the ancient cobblestone stairs that criss cross the Sassi. The same is true if you take the path from the Duomo above. I wouldn’t recommend taking the route from above with luggage because the cobblestone stairs have been worn smooth by hundreds of years of use and will help you on your way down much faster than you’d like.
The hotel is spread over several levels making use of the existing caves and structures rather than building in front of them. This is what makes it so unique. The structure of the caves have been left as they were, with the addition of modern convinces like plumbing and electric lights.
The restoration of the hotel was designed to allow the original architecture of the caves to be prominent. Period details such as windows. Heavy large planked, rough hewn doors with oversized, 8” room keys. It not looks authentic, it feels authentic. A simple, minimal white bedding on an extremely comfortable queen-sized bed, means a very very good night’s sleep.
Period details such as windows. Heavy large planked, rough hewn doors with oversized, 8” room keys. It not looks authentic, it feels authentic. A simple, minimal white bedding on an extremely comfortable queen-sized bed, means a very very good night’s sleep.
Breakfast is held every morning in the old monastery and is a spread that the monks would certainly have been envious of. Fruit, yogurt with various toppings, cereal, eggs, pastries, meats, coffee, tea...a beautifully prepared and displayed assortment of foods.
The Sassi di Matera is a treasure that has to be experienced and if not for finding this exceptional hotel, I would have never known about it. I'm so happy that places like this exist to give us an alternative to the ordinary.