Visit Basilicata

It’s time to VISIT BASILICATA Says the NY Times

So many wonderful places to visit, so little time. Need a few suggestions? The New York Times has one for every week of the year in their annual list “52 Places to Go.” Last year, the fascinating Southern Italian region of Calabria was distinguished. This year, the experts say, it’s time to visit Basilicata.

Have they read my mind? Visiting Basilicata is exactly what I have been doing, and now the “secret” is out.

VISIT BASILICATA – “Italy’s Secret Southern Region”

As I read the NY Times’ recommendation to visit Basilicata, I couldn’t help but notice the repeated use of the word “secret.” And it’s true, the region is not included on the itineraries of casual visitors to Italy, but what makes something secret?

Aficionados of Italian film, for instance, are very familiar with Basilicata as directors are captivated by the picturesque villages that cling to hillsides, the haunting splendor of ancient churches, the grandeur of its castles and the dramatic, unspoiled settings. The American movie director Francis Ford Coppola traces his family roots to Basilicata and describes the region in simple but touching terms: “When you look at Basilicata, you see fields, vineyards, beautiful scenery. You see the earth as it was supposed to be.”

Visit Basilicata

Accettura in the Province of Matera

Major motion pictures have been set throughout the region, but Matera has held a particular allure, specifically the cavelike dwellings and churches of the Sassi district. Have you seen Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ or the recent Ben Hur, perhaps? Or if you prefer something more in keeping with The Omen, did you catch the Jerusalem scenes in the remake? If so, the secret is out. Well, part of it, a very small part of it.

Visit Basilicata

The Sassi of Matera

So even if Matera has been on the tourist map for a few years now, the region has so much more to offer. And as the NY Times’ article says, Basilicata has been largely overlooked, so an authentic experience unencumbered by large tour buses and English menus can refreshingly be found. Visit Basilicata and discover a secret, cherished by a select few.

BASILICATA BASICS

Basilicata is a Southern Italian region that lies between Calabria in the toe of the boot and Puglia in the heel. It is the country’s high-arched instep with mountains covering almost half the terrain, and hills, most of the rest. Flat land accounts for less than a tenth of its territory, which packs an impressive naturalistic diversity into relatively small dimensions.

The region’s mountains soar to 2,248 meters (7,375 feet) and its shorelines range from dramatic cliffs on the west coast’s Tyrrhenian Sea to long, sandy beaches on its southern Ionian Sea. And visitors have a lot of elbow room as Basilicata has the second lowest population density of Italy’s twenty regions.

Visit Basilicata

Maratea on the Tyrrhenian Sea

The two largest cities as well as provincial capitals are Potenza, also the regional capital, and Matera, the aforementioned capital of tourism. In fact, Matera, itself a UNESCO Heritage Site, has the honor of being Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2019.

Visit Basilicata

Teatro Stabile in Potenza’s Piazza Mario Pagano

WHY VISIT BASILICATA?

In this blogpost I can only begin to scratch the surface of what there is to see and do in this southern Italian region. One thing is for sure, however, wherever you go, you can’t visit Basilicata without tripping over its rich history. A surprising number of castles pop up in towns and cities, a good number of which can be visited while others tell their stories with lone towers or ruins.

Visit Basilicata

The Castle of Lagopesole in Avigliano, Province of Potenza

As to be expected in Italy, churches are plentiful. Basilicata is particularly blessed (no pun intended) with early Christian chapels carved out of caves and adorned with vivid pictorial art. Matera alone has over 150. Many of the region’s larger churches and cathedrals were built over those founded by early Christians. And why not visit Basilicata for one of its many religious festivals and other events held throughout the year?

Visit Basilicata

Carnival in the town of Tricarico – colorful costumes and very loud bells!

Would you like to dig back further in time? Today’s Metaponto is popular with visitors to the Ionian coast and is the site of the ancient Greek colony Metapontum, founded in the 7th-century BC. The remains of one of its temples, called the Tavole Palatine or the Palatine Tables, can be viewed in the archeological park not far from Matera. In addition to many historical sites and parks, Basilicata also has eight national archeological museums in towns and cities throughout the region, veritable treasure troves of the past.

Visit Calabria

The Tavole Palatine (6th-century BC) in Metaponto

VISIT BASILICATA FOR NATURE, SPORT AND FOOD

Perhaps your idea of a good time is lounging at the beach or taking a hike, many visit Basilicata for all that nature has to offer, and then some. The region has a couple of adrenalin-rush adventures for thrill seekers, such as the Volo dell’Angelo zip-line that is located in Castelmezzano, the fairytale town in the cover photo above. (For a description of my zip-line experience, go to my recent Blogiversary post). And together with Calabria, Basilicata even has Italy’s largest national park, called the Pollino.

Visit Basilicata

Wild Horses in the Pollino National Park, Basilicata

In this brief introduction to what you may find if you visit Basilicata, I will take a final moment to mention one culinary element that is particular to the region: the peperoni cruschi. Peperoni doesn’t have anything to do with the salami that tops pizzas all over America, but is the Italian word for pepper. These sun-dried sweet Italian peppers are fried and cruschi describes the sound when eating them. They are crunchy and are used in dishes throughout the region.

Visit Basilicata

Dried Peppers in Basilicata – Ready for the chef

So, do you plan to visit Basilicata this year? I’m ready to go back. Oh, they also have an excellent DOC wine, the Aglianico del Vulture, just in case you were wondering.

Visit Basilicata

Salute! Cheers from Basilicata! Tasting the must of Aglianico del Vulture wine at the Vigne Mastrodomenico family winery in Barile, Province of Potenza


Italy travel bookUPDATE: Visiting Basilicata inspired me to write a book about the region, and I’m pleased to announce that it is available! Read about it on my blogpost Announcing My New Book, Basilicata: Authentic Italy, and you may order it on this Basilicata book link.

Read an article about Matera I wrote for the National Italian American Foundation’s Ambassador Magazine: Transforming Matera. Also, check out other posts on my Italian blog, such as Visit Calabria about last year’s NY Times’ list, as well as Calabria: The Other Italy, my non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in another lesser-known southern Italian region.

“Like” Calabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook page  and follow me on Karen’s Instagram and Karen’s Twitter for more beautiful pictures and information.

Sign up below to receive the next blog post for free directly to your email.

CALABRIA: THE OTHER ITALY and BASILICATA: AUTHENTIC ITALY make great gifts!

Calabria book

Comments 13

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you. Yes, I had the opportunity to visit the Rabatana section of Tursi as well as the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Regina di Anglona with an architect. Basilicata is certainly rich in history. I’ll look you up the next time I pass by that way. All the best to you and thanks for stopping by my blog.

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes! The writing is complete, working on preparations for print, and it will hopefully be out within a few months. Very exciting, as it’s the culmination of a couple of years’ work. Thanks for asking!

        1. Post
          Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *