Maratea is a town and comune of Basilicata, in the province of Potenza. It is the only comune of the region on the Tyrrhenian coast, and is known as "the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian". Owing to the considerable number of its churches and chapels it has also been described as "the town with 44 churches".


Maratea is the only town of Basilicata on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has approximately of rocky coastline, with more than twenty beaches. One of the main characteristics of Maratea is the variety of its landscapes, varying from breath-taking sea views to wooded hillsides and majestic mountains which sweep down to the sea creating steep cliffs.
The Grotta di Maratea, or the Cave of Wonders, was discovered in 1929 by men building the Highway 18 from Calabria.
The centre of the town is situated on the northern slopes of Mount San Biagio; other villages in the comune include Acquafredda, Cersuta, Fiumicello, Porto, Marina, Castrocucco, Castello, Santa Caterina, Massa and Brefaro. The principal vegetation comprises oaks, pines, rosemary, holm oaks, carob trees and wild fennel.
Maratea has a small harbour, which can accommodate up to 200 boats.


Maratea probably derives from the fennel plant, which is called Marathéa/Μαραθέα in Medieval Greek, Marathía in Italiot Greek.


Based on archeological findings, the first settlements in the Maratea region date back to the Paleolithic era. In the 15th-14th century BC a village grew up on top of the little headland called La Timpa. This was a small trading center, and its existence is documented until the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Lucania.
During the Roman era, the region continued to be a trade center: on the seabed near Santo Janni island dozens of ancient anchors have been found, and these are now on display in the local museum.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, southern Italy became part of the Byzantine Empire, starting from the Gothic Wars. From the 7th century, the Tyrrhenian Sea came under the control of the Saracens,, who sacked numerous towns. So, for safety reasons, the local inhabitants moved to the high ground of Mount San Biagio, where they built the so-called Castello, a little fortified urban centre.
In 732 a ship, fleeing the religious persecution of Leo III the Isaurian, brought the sacred remains of Saint Blaise to Maratea, who thereafter became the patron saint of the town. The remains of the saint are still kept in the Maratea's Basilica, which is built over an ancient temple of Minerva.
In 1077 Maratea, together with the rest of Southern Italy, was conquered by the Normans.

In the 11th-12th century, since the Castello could no longer accommodate the increasing population, some of the people of Maratea decided to found a new urban centre, historically called the Borgo. Today the ancient Borgo is the principal urban centre of Maratea. In view of the risk from Saracen attacks, the Borgo was situated behind Mount San Biagio, so that it could not be seen from the sea.
In 1282 the War of the Sicilian Vespers began, in which the houses of Angevins and Aragon fought for control of the Kingdom of Naples. The war ended in 1302, but the dispute continued for another century. Between 1302 and 1496, thanks to its loyalty to the royal house, Maratea was awarded numerous grants of autonomy. The Castello was put under siege in 1441, by Lauria, and in 1495 by Angevins soldiers. On both occasion it resisted successfully.
From 1566 to 1595, six guardhouse-towers were built along the coastline, to protect the new villages that had developed in the meantime: Acquafredda, Cersuta and Porto.
On 2 May 1676 the village of the Borgo was besieged by 160 bandits. However, the guards of the Castello killed the bandit leader and captured the remainder of the gang.
In the 18th century Maratea entered a period of progress and prosperity; on April 12, 1734 the first hospital of Basilicata was opened in the town. Many of the so-called 44 churches were built during this period.
When Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed himself King of Naples, Maratea was one of the few cities which did not accept French supremacy. In August 1806 the nearby town of Lauria, whose citizens also refused to acknowledge Napoleon, was set on fire by general André Masséna. Alessandro Mandarini, mayor of Maratea and commander of its castle, believing that Maratea would be the next target, evacuated the inhabitants to Sicily. Since Mandarini had been promised relief from the English army, he remained, with only 1,000 men, to defend the castle and the town. After three days under siege, Mandarini, who did not receive any help by the English, was forced to surrender. In token of their great admiration for the brave resistance, the French spared the lives of the rebels, but ordered them to pull down the walls of the castle. The latter was slowly abandoned during the 19th and 20th century.
After the return of the House of Bourbon to the throne of Naples, a movement developed that would have brought about the political unification of the peninsula. In 1848, one of its leaders, the revolutionary Costabile Carducci, was killed after years of being hunted by the Neapolitan militia.
In 1861, Italy was finally united. However, at this time Maratea suffered extreme poverty, in common with the rest of Basilicata. Many of its inhabitants emigrated to the United States or to Venezuela, and with their economic help Maratea was connected to the railway network in 1894, built its first aqueduct in 1902, had electrical connection from 1924, and tarred roads connected the Old Town with the outlying districts on the coast in 1930.
Thanks to the help of Stefano Rivetti, an Italian industrialist, in the 1950s the economic situation of Maratea improved: factories and many hotels were opened.

Main sights

The Statue of Christ

The statue of Christ the Redeemer, or the Christ of Maratea, was built of pure Carrara marble in 1965 by Bruno Innocenti, a sculptor from Florence. It is located on the top of Monte San Biagio, right in front of the basilica.

The 44 Churches

Maratea is called the town with 44 churches for the number of its churches and chapels.
In the outlying districts are the rest of the churches which complete the list:
Maratea's territory is also home to six coastal watchtowers, dating to the 16th-17th centuries.


Maratea has two urban areas: one is located on the top of the mount San Biagio, called Castello; the other one is called Borgo, situated on the north hillside of the same mountain.
Plus, the comune has several little villages, spread across the region.


The nearest airports are: