Carved into the side of a cliff in beautiful Matera in the Puglia region of Italy sits the romantic Design Hotel Sextantio le Grotte della Civita. The rooms are literal caves carved into the side of the once-abandoned town of Matera and made popular by their spectacular view and appearance in many films, including James Bond’s No Time To Die and The Passion of the Christ.
From the moment you step inside one of the 18 completed rooms, you are taken back in time with simple furnishings, flickering candlelight, and the coolness only a cave can give. The hotel is designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, and it took ten years to turn the sassi (stone settlement) into boutique bedrooms. Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita is the first cave hotel created in southern Italy in recent years, all of which reach back to the past to provide a sense of context to a simpler life. The Sassi have been inhabited since the Neolithic era until the 1970s when the Italian government cleared out the 15,000 inhabitants living in the spaces with cattle, sheep and donkeys.
The idea behind reclaiming these spaces came from Italian-Swedish philosopher-turned-philanthropist Daniele Kihlgren, who decided to buy a warren of empty buildings and turn them into “albergo diffuso,” or extended village hotels, where visitors can experience life in old homes and eat in local restaurants. Thus, in turn, bringing people back to the once-emptied villages. A very noble goal.
Currently, there are 18 total rooms ready, six suites with little terraces, while the remainder of the rooms are sprinkled along a stone footpath winding the side of the cliff. The rooms are hand-dug yellow tufi-stone walls, reclaimed brick floors and large old wooden doors. Inside, the furnishings and decor are simple and rustic, historically and regionally authentic. Still, there are contemporary bathroom amenities, waterfall showers, soft lighting, and Wi-Fi. Some of the larger rooms even have Philippe Starck egg-shaped baths. More rooms are being reclaimed and renovated as part of the ongoing project, so don’t worry. You’ll have a place to stay when you head to Matera.
The abundant homemade breakfast is a topper as part of the welcoming experience that is Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita. With items locally sourced from food grown nearby in southern Italian and prepared in the kitchen by the friendly staff, the breakfast buffet is served in a former church cave lit with candles and playing Italian classical music. Make sure to fill up on the sun-ripened fruit, particularly the freshly picked dates, sample one of everything from the plentiful boards of cheeses and meats, and save room for the beyond-belief baked goods. For the penultimate romantic dinner, the dinner cave is available by request only, with drinks and snacks served outdoors on the terrace overlooking the city and Gravina River ravine below.
While Matera is a beautiful town, Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita makes the visit worth it. Check availability now.