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Magical Matera – Our Retreat in the City of Rocks

In the southern Italian region of Basilicata you will find the city of Matera. From afar this city looks like a fine drawing from a book of fairytales. A far away land where magic and myth live side by side. Those who visit will certainly agree there really is something magical about the sassi carved out of the famous white stone. The team at Creative Italy think Matera is the perfect location for a one-of-a-kind retreat with our expert artisan.

One of the oldest settlements in Europe dating back to the palaeolithic period, the distinctive cave dwellings or sassi are a sight to behold. Upon a visit to Matera you will discover many of today’s residents still live and work in these incredible sassi. In 1993 Matera was designated a UNESCO world heritage site. But if you really want to experience the magic and traditions of Matera, then step into the world of cartapesta…

The Art of Cartapesta

Cartapesta or papier-mâché is first thought to have arrived in Basilicata’s neighbouring region of Salento, via the far east. Being both durable but also light in weight, papier-mâché became the perfect material for artisans to craft religious statues and figures. When materials such as marble or bronze were in short supply or too expensive, papier-mâché became the perfect substitute. The art of cartapesta really flourished in the 18th century when demand for religious artefacts for homes and places of worship soared. In fact, the chiese rupestri (cave churches) of Matera were home to many of these fine examples of beautiful cartapesta.

If you happen to make it to Matera during the feast of the Madonna della Bruna in July, you will see fine examples of the artistry on display. During this festival the Madonna della Bruna is paraded through the city on a carriage made of papier- mâché. At the conclusion of the parade the carriage is torn apart by spectators. Those coming away with a piece of the papier-mâché are believed to be afforded good fortune.

The cartapesta artists of today contribute in preserving the skills and techniques passed down over centuries, making not only religious figures and scenes but masks, jewellery and other pieces.

Our Matera Retreat

The team at Creative Italy have handpicked a beautiful historical hotel embedded in the rocks. Our Matera retreat takes place at an authentic cartapesta workshop where you will help with the creation of a nativity scene. Witness first-hand the skill and artistry of our local artisan, who will share the techniques handed down over generations.

The nativity scene is one which reproduces a cross-section of the rural folk of the Sassi di Matera, between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. You will hear about the history of the people who lived in the white stone dwellings, everything from the clothing worn, to the type of work carried out.
Imagine learning as an apprentice in one of the most beautiful and unique environments in the world!


  • 5 day workshop of papier-mâché creating the Nativity scene
  • 3 hours of activity will take place in the master artisan’s workshop
  • Our talented artisan will introduce you to the techniques of cartapesta and its ancient tradition

*The workshop is available ONLY from December through to March

Contact Creative Italy today for our magical Matera Retreat with Artisans in the city of Rocks!




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