- Mountains and mediaeval villages
- Country life
- Caves, culture and cucina
Basilicata rivals Rome in terms of culture, beauty, history and charm, and it comes without the torrent of tourists.
This Southern section of Italy is tucked high up on the beautiful boot’s instep, flanked by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. The landscape is wild and mountainous, home to some of the county’s most impressive national parks and the volcanic Mount Vulture. Underground churches and caves lurk beneath the arid terrain, and Matera’s maze-like settlement of cave dwellings is a Unesco World Heritage site. Basilicata’s not all hilltops and history though; Maratea has some dazzling secluded coves and the region’s two provinces, Potenza and Matera, both boast bars and boutiques.
The prehistoric Sassi di Matera (‘stones of Matera’) are thought to be one of Italy’s earliest human settlements. The houses (or more accurately, caverns) are dug into the soft tufa rock, with streets formed by the rooftops of the caves below. The sassi were inhabited until the 1950s, when the Italian government forcefully relocated most of Matera’s population to areas of the developing city.
- You can flag taxis by bus and train stations – since they’re not particularly wallet-friendly, they’re best for short journeys.
- Packing tips
- Loose linens, rock-proof sandals and a blank Moleskine notebook for recording local recipes.
- Recommended reads
- Carlo Levi was exiled to Basilicata by the Fascists in the 1930s; his account of the poverty-stricken sassi prompted the government’s enforced relocation. Read Levi’s account of Matera in his memoirs, Christ Stopped at Eboli. The Roman poet Horace was born in Basilicata (the city of Venosa, to be precise). If you’re feeling erudite, take his Odes, Epodes or Satires. Any of Marcella Hazan’s cookery books will inspire and inform your dinner choices – the Italian chef is a top authority on her country’s cuisine.
- Regional specialities
- Salame pezzente is a moreish meaty snack, made with pork scraps (hence the name, which means ‘beggar’s sausage’) and seasoned with chilli, garlic, fennel seeds and black pepper. They like it hot here: right red peperone di Senise (Senise peppers) colour the countryside’s fields and flavour the dishes. The peperone were even granted IPG status (Identificazione Geografica Protetta) in 1996. Unsurprisingly, the area’s pasta is worth stocking up on: try the little ears of orecchiette and the longer cavatelli.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Italy: +39. Basilicata: 08 (don’t forget to retain the initial ‘0’ of the area code when dialling from outside Italy).
Don't go home without...
… admiring Maratea’s Statua del Redentore – an imposing 72ft statue of Christ carved from white Carerra marble, on Mount San Biagio. It certainly gives Rio’s Redeemer a run for its money.