Madonna delle Virtù Church (Chiesa di Madonna delle Virtù)
Part of a monastic complex along with the Church of San Nicola dei Greci, Madonna delle Virtù is made up of a dozens of chapels and chambers excavated directly from the stone cliff, and is one of the city’s best examples of “negative architecture”, or building into the stone rather than from it.
The complex is best visited as part of a guided tour to fully appreciate its singular history and architecture. Walking tours of the Sassi di Matera generally visit the town’s historic churches along with the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario and the MUSMA art museum. Matera sits near the border with Puglia, and many day trips often combine tours of the cave town and stops in Alberobello, Locorotondo, or Castel del Monte.
Things to know before you go
- The sublimely lit interiors of the Madonna delle Virtù are a photographer’s paradise.
- Archaeology enthusiasts especially enjoy touring Matera’s rupestrian churches.
- Due to steep lanes and stairs, much of the historic Sassi di Matera is difficult to navigate on wheels. The interiors of Madonna delle Virtù are not accessible to wheelchair users.
- Matera walking tours include time outdoors in the hot sun with visits to cooler indoor caves, so be sure to bring both a sun hat and light jacket.
How to get there
The Madonna delle Virtù Church is located in the historic Sassi di Matera, a highlight of the southern region of Basilicata. The area is not well-served by public transportation, so join a guided tour that includes transportation to visit.
When to get there
Basilicata is blisteringly hot in the summer, so plan to tour Matera in the early morning or late afternoon between June and September, which also feature the best light for memorable photographs.
The Sassi di Matera
The historic center of Matera is known as the Sassi, a warren of cave dwellings and caverns carved into the hillside over millennia, beginning from prehistoric times. Inhabited until the 1950s and considered one of the most impoverished enclaves in Italy, today the Sassi host trendy hotels, upscale restaurants, restored churches, and contemporary museums.
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