If your dream is to go to Matera, Italy, and stay overnight in one of the caves the city is famous for, and bring your dog too, you’re in luck! There are many hotels in the ancient city that will let you sleep in a cave with your dog. But there are lots of things to consider.
After perusing booking.com and learning I could sleep in a cave with my dog, I chose the Hotel Residence San Giorgio. I didn’t quite understand the whole layout or how everything would go, but I knew I wanted to stay in a cave hotel and that would be enough! Cave hotels in Matera are located in the Sassi which is the name for the two settlements in the ancient city center of Matera. There is no parking available in the Sassi which is a little bit of a challenge when you arrive and leave, but you’ll be very glad you don’t have to deal with cars on the streets while you are exploring this amazing city.
Here’s What You Need to Know
There are many parking garages just outside the Sassi, and we chose the Parcheggio Nicoletti Michele on Via Cappelluti (0835/330896) which sits just at the border. Plan on € 20.00 per day for secure parking. There was also a € 10.00 service each way for a shuttle from the car park to the reception are of our hotel and back. But before we left our previous location, we had reorganized our bags so that we brought only what we needed for our 2 night stay, and left everything else in the car. Of course, Helga the frenchie had more bags than we did! We wanted a walk after a long car ride, and we chose the car park closest to the hotel.
Heads up that part of the awesome security involves a dog named Winston! This was great for our parked car, but not our reactive dog! We managed to keep Helga out of sight, and all was well.
If you don’t have a car, consider the shuttle because walking will involve cobblestones, very uneven streets, and stairs. If I’ve lost you already, don’t give up on Matera just yet! There are plenty of places to stay outside the Sassi that will allow you to have more luggage, and you can just walk unencumbered into the old city to explore.
[Heads up! This post may contain ‘affiliate links’, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through those links. This doesn’t cost you anything, and you can rest assured I’m not linking anything I don’t fully endorse! And also, it will make me really happy and motivated to keep providing you with useful content, because you are awesome!]
The other thing to know about the Sassi is that the cell service is spotty, and you’ll see why. There are alleys, and passages, and little tunnels and stone everywhere. Getting a clear signal is not a given. All that’s to say that we got lost on our way to the hotel and immediately got scooped up by a local who showed us where to go and gave us our first introduction to the city and what it has to offer. We tipped him a few Euros for his kind efforts and he was appreciative.
The Reception Desk
Our first stop was the reception desk where we were greeted warmly and told to follow the concierge to our room. Here’s where it all started to fit into place. Each room is a former cave residence. The hotel really isn’t a hotel, but more like a neighborhood, with each room taking up a former two-room residence. Each “room” is unique, and located on the street a few blocks away. The concierge offered to assist with bags from the reception desk to our room but we were kind of in the zone at that point and just went the rest of the way as we were, with Helga in tow on her leash. Good thing we packed light!
The Room – Yes, you can sleep in a cave with your dog!
After a few hundred feet, and a slight uphill cobblestone walk, we arrived at our door. All I can say is that I couldn’t even speak for several seconds while I absorbed the awesomeness of the dwelling. We chose the Superior Suite for our stay and wow! High vaulted stone ceiling, only one small transom window over the door so you could tell when it was daylight, a full dining table and kitchen, the bed in yet another vaulted section of the room, a nice bathroom with a jetted tub, and a window portal that looked down into the old cistern. Matera is famous for these, and you can read all about the city in my post HERE.
And there was a flight of stairs down into yet another room which he called the wine cellar. It was decorated with large glass bottles and the lighting was amazing. It called out for a table though, or some reason to go down there. I did end up using it a couple times just to cool off after a hot walk around the city. The underground cave part was a delightful, almost A/C-like experience, which I needed!
As the concierge showed us the room, he brushed aside a little bit of white sandstone dust from the table, and said there might be a little of that during our stay. I mean, it’s a sandstone cave, and I was totally ok with that. I do have asthma, and I did notice by the time we checked out that I was coughing more than normal, and our tour guide even mentioned that people with breathing issues shouldn’t stay for prolonged periods in a cave hotel. Would I stay for a couple nights again? Heck yes! Also Helga is a snub-nosed dog, but she showed no signs of any issues.
But if you do have a serious respiratory issue you may want to think twice about staying in a cave.
Breakfast was provided in the room and restocked the following morning. Coffee, milk, orange juice, a bottle of prosecco (!), cheese and meat, a bowl of fruit, tomatoes, bread, jams, cookies, tea and honey. It was like a little picnic each morning.
Sleeping in a cave with my dog (and my husband!) was absolutely amazing. We’ve traveled a lot and it’s rare that my jaw drops at a hotel room, but this was an experience like no other. I got a fabulous night’s sleep, not only because the bed was comfortable, which it was, but it was so quiet! The place itself felt steeped in history and as I closed my eyes, I tried to imagine who might have lived there, and all the people who had fallen asleep there over the centuries. I felt like a combination of a kid in a blanket fort, a spelunker, and having a sleepover in a museum!
Helga absolutely loved the cave. She gets hot easily, just like me, and enjoyed the coolness of the room and the fact that she had so much space to roam around. It was easily the size of 3 regular hotel rooms. There were no bowls or blankets or dog bed provided which worked out all right because we brought our own.
The only negative thing I have to say is that we went to ask a question at the front desk and the concierge asked where the dog was. We said in the room, and he said that under no circumstances was the dog to be in the room alone at all. This was kind of a shocker because we had not encountered this situation before, and Helga is definitely used to her quiet down-time in the room. She’s also not great with a lot of stimulation and can be reactive with other dogs.
Dog Policies – Know Before You Go!
We were very glad for two things. First, that Matera itself is very dog friendly, and second that we had brought along an over-the-shoulder carry bag. At 20 pounds, she’s topping the scales for a shoulder bag, but we made it work. She was able to enter a couple of the little cave house museums, and a film about Matera while in the bag. She was also allowed to sit with us in cafés and restaurants. We kept her in the bag there, too, and miraculously she did ok, minus barking at a couple waiters. (We tipped extra). But for some things, like entering churches (which never allow dogs), we had to take turns with one of us waiting outside with Helga while the other went in.
Needless to say, this knowledge would have been good to have before we booked. If you have a dog, be sure to confirm with a cave hotel first to make sure that you can leave your dog in the room while you do things that are not dog-friendly. If you don’t have a dog, or if your dog goes everywhere you go, I’d recommend Residence San Giorgio without hesitation. You can check availability HERE.
And for a comprehensive article with lots of tips and tricks, read our article Staying in a Hotel With Your Dog – Top Tips!