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Ancient Caves & Less Crowds! Visit The Hidden Gem ‘Bethlehem Of Italy’

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There's no denying Israel and Palestine are trigger words right now, but what we can agree on is that Bethlehem is one of the most fascinating destinations in the world, regardless of your beliefs.

Sure, it can be a challenge to find common ground when discussing this complex region of the world, but that's all the more reason to visit the dupe destination of the “Bethlehem of Italy” without stepping foot in the Middle East.

No need to take a deep dive into what's happening there; we'll leave that to the talking heads on television.

Sweeping views of Matara

In terms of travel, Italy has become a massive bright spot for tourism in Europe, but with that comes the all too common frustration of unbearable crowds.

Good news is there are still undiscovered gems calling your name.

Just as pretty as Rome, Venice, and Florence, the ancient city of Matera is brimming with history and glorious surprises, making it one of the best alternatives to Italy's most popular destinations.

The Most Authentic Destination In Italy

Before you get in a tizzy and say, “What about Rome?” or ” What about Florence?” Hear me out.

Woman climbing stone stairway with arches in Matera Italy

Yes, Rome and Florence are incredible, but they're also, well, let's just say, Americanized.

Rome is fascinating with endless history and incredible food, but you know you stopped at Starbucks for a taste of back home.

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities Italy has to offer as well, but tourists know about it, so how authentic could it be?

Matera is on the lesser-known side of the spectrum. Somehow, it has slipped through the cracks, which is only a compliment to Italy as there are so many incredible places to discover beyond major destinations.

Cliffside alleyway - Matera, italy

You can grab a perfect batch of coffee at a delightful sidewalk cafe while taking in the city's awe-inspiring historical architecture and cobbled streets.

Your best bet is Gahvè Coffee & Drink, where you won't come close to the price of Starbucks and you can indulge in local eats there as well. Always a good idea in Italy!

An Ancient City Just As Stunning As Rome

No, there's no Colosseum or Vatican City, but you could easily argue Matera is just as fascinating.

Matera's claim to fame, despite flying under the radar for most travelers, is ancient caves where artifacts from the Early Neolithic period have been found before.

City view from cave - Mater, Italy

The caves are open to the public as a World Heritage Site, providing not only intriguing history but awesome views of the historic cityscape.

Say what you want about Italy's vast history, but Matera should have a seat at the table with the likes of the Roman Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, and Shroud of Turin in terms of sheer intrigue.

Disagree if you want, but at the very least, you can't deny Matera isn't more enthralling than the Tower of Pisa and care more about the ‘gram hence there are no crowds here.

This relatively unknown city may be home to one of the earliest human settlements on record, but tourists cave to the pressure, flocking to places such as Pisa for picture-perfect moments over more captivating historical sites.

Ancient cave in Matera

Unique Airbnbs: Stay In A Cave Home

These caves date back lifetimes, but locals made use of the caves and transformed them into their very own homes over the years.

Some of them still exist today. While it's said the government gave residents the boot decades ago due to safety concerns, there are some great modern alternatives listed on Airbnb.

While these homes may not be quite the same as how locals used to live, which, let's be honest, can be both a good and bad thing because, ya know, plumbing and such…

Traditional cave house in Matera, Italy

The homes are outfitted with the latest amenities you'd expect while also getting a glimpse of what makes Matera a one-of-a-kind destination.

A Surprisingly Lively City Full Of Goodies

Some tourists may have their sets set on Italy's major cities, such as Rome, which is perfectly fine. That being said, this small city of roughly 60,000 inhabitants packs a punch.

Of course, Italy is world-renowned for their phenomenal cuisine and it's no different here as Matera is known for incredible pizza, such as top-rated AltraPizza.

Food and drink with background of Matera cityscape

That being said, Matera offers a bonus – incomparable sweeping views while you wine and dine.

Make sure to check out the bustling street markets near Piazza V Veneto as well for fresh baked goodies and street eats.

Lastly, you can't visit Matera without seeing the incredible Church of Purgatory. We're not saying it's the Sistine Chapel, but this alone will make you wonder how Matera isn't more popular.

Although, it was the 2019 European Capital of Culture.

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