The day has come. Basilicata: Authentic Italy, my new book about the unassuming region in the instep of the Italian boot is available! Years of planning, in-person research (the best part!), writing and production elements, and then, the date sort of sneaks up on you.
I set out to explore Basilicata with a purpose. After writing Calabria: The Other Italy, which grew out of several years living in the region in the toe of the boot, people asked me, “What’s next?” I thought and thought. Conventional publishing would have directed me to add to the shelves of books about Rome, Venice or Florence. That’s what sells, after all. But I wanted to continue my exploration of the lesser known, the underrated.
Basilicata is Calabria’s northern neighbor. They share Italy’s largest national park, the Pollino. I had been to Matera, the City of the Sassi, which I included in my Calabria book and which has gradually become a destination for in-the-know travelers to Southern Italy. But what about the rest of the region?
Before visiting, I looked at the map and reasoned that I should be able to more or less cover such a small region in a brief 150 pages. Then I began visiting the villages and the larger towns, going to festivals, meeting the people, sampling the cuisine and reading what was available. I realized that I had taken on a major project.
BASILICATA: AUTHENTIC ITALY
My journey took me to the rocky region in the heart of the Italian south, to a land where ancient pagan rites live alongside those of the Catholic Church, world-class wine washes down edible hyacinth bulbs, zip-lines parallel old mule trails, and the air is infused with the ideals of Roman poets and brigands. Best known for the evocative cave dwellings of Matera, Basilicata packs an incredible diversity into the seemingly small yet expansive territory sandwiched between Calabria, Campania and Puglia.
To discover what makes this region tick, I traversed Mediterranean beaches and Alpine forests, visited medieval castles and modest homes, attended folkloric festivals and sampled earthy local cuisine, uncovering Basilicata past and present, from pre-Greek to the story of emigration that continues today.
Basilicata: Authentic Italy examines historical context when coming upon the region’s challenges. How could such a noble land, the birthplace of the likes of Horace and final resting place of Pythagoras become the 20th century’s back and beyond, a place where the Fascists exiled political prisoners? What motivated the likes of Carmine Crocco, Basilicata’s most famous brigand—common criminality or social revolt against the devastating consequences of Italian Unification? At times, progress has seemingly passed the region by, while at others, has wreaked havoc, such as in the case of the ghost town of Craco and big oil in Viggiano.
Religion has played its part, as well, and I encounter symbols from ancient burial objects in numerous archeological museums to the Jewish catacombs of Venosa, from the extraordinary Early Christian cave paintings in the Crypt of the Original Sin to Maratea’s Christ statue that rivals Rio’s.
BASILICATA: AUTHENTIC ITALY – NOW AVAILABLE
As with my Calabria book, Basilicata: Authentic Italy is available in paperback and electronic formats. Amazon has the “Look Inside” feature to give a peak of its contents. Highlights include a mountain community’s ritualistic Marriage of Trees, an international celebration of fantastical carnival masks, the capital city’s colorful Parade of the Turks, a relaxing sojourn at a classic Italian spa facility, visits to wineries, and of course, the unbridled consumption of countless culinary delicacies. Who knew that a sweet, dried pepper could bring such crunchy delight?
Basilicata: Authentic Italy reflects on the region past and present, as well as considers the future of a land and its people with so much to offer and an even greater potential yet to be realized. Basilicata is a corner of Italy where that elusive authentic experience sought out by today’s traveler can be found. I have done so, and in Basilicata: Authentic Italy, I share the joys and challenges of the experience.
Order Basilicata: Authentic Italy now! (Google it for availability outside the US.)
(signed by author on request)
Join me on September 3rd at 6 pm from the comfort of your home for my presentation about Basilicata on Zoom – send me a message on the contact form or through the Basilicata Facebook Event to receive the code to virtually attend the talk.
UPDATE: The presentation was recorded and here’s a link to see it on my YouTube page: Basilicata: Authentic Italy presentation.
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