There is a shy region in South Italy, quite unknown to mass tourism, which in recent years has gained more and more popularity: Basilicata. The natural set of a Pasolini movie has come back to popularity thanks to “Basilicata coast to Coast”, an Italian comedy where the protagonists travel out and about the region in search of fame as musicians, as well as the renowned Mel Gibson’s “The passion of the Christ”, set in the beautiful Matera.
Basilicata, also known with its previous name Lucania, is nested among Apulien, Campania and Calabria and is also the only Italian region with two outlets to the sea: one on the Ionian and one on the Tyrrhenian.
One of the best way to explore Basilicata is to rent a car, drive from towns to villages and stop a day or two in each location. The closest airports are the International ones of Napoli Capodichino or Bari, but Rome is also convenient. From the capital, you can reach Basilicata with a three-hour journey.
So, let me suggest you ten places that cannot be missed to start exploring Basilicata.
This mountainous area stretches in the southern part of the Appennines and takes its name from the North Western Alps as the peaks recall the Dolomiti profile. The main villages are Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa. Here you can enjoy breathtaking views before, during and after a trekking or before, during and after chilling in a local restaurant. I definitely prefer the second option.
This village in the Lucanian Dolomites has been declared one of the most beautiful Italian hamlets. Perched at 750 mt above the sea level, here you can find the so called Angel Flight: you can fly from Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa attached to a cable. Note to the reader: you will never find a review on this attraction here as I’d rather walk from Rome to Milan in flip flops. But if you do it, drop me a message and I’ll be glad to host your review.
San Fele Waterfalls
The Bradanello torrent originates from the Lucanian Appennines and when it reaches the municipality of San Fele it forms beautiful waterfalls. We are still in the Province of Potenza, in what is considered the most enchanting wild area of the region. You can take a stroll on your own or join a guided tour and visit the different cascades including that dedicated to lovers. Bring a beloved one to kiss.
What looks like a medieval town seems to have even more ancient origins; in fact, it might be founded by the Greeks or the Romans.
Here you will find churches and a medieval castle as well as palaces and fountains. We are close to the Vulture area, renown for an ancient Vulcan and the Aglianico red wine.
Laghi di Monticchio
Not far from Melfi you will find the Vulture Volcano. Imagine to drive on a mountain, at a certain point the car starts descending: you have entered the mouth of the Volcano that, in its crater, hosts two communicating lakes. Here you can take a stroll around the lakes or visit San Michele Abbey which is aligned with other churches dedicated to Saint Michael, including Mont Saint Michel in France. One day I shall write about this incredible story.
The so called Pearl in the Policastro Gulf is one of the two Lucanian outlets to the sea. the ancient hamlet of Maratea is perched on a cliff overseeing the Thyrrenian Sea. You should spend here a week to profit from the landscape, the view, the breeze and the traditional dishes prepared with eggplants.
Sassi di Matera
Together with Potenza, Matera is the second province of Basilicata, a Unesco World Heritage. The so called Sassi, rocks in Italian, represent the old city which is considered one if not the oldest urban settlement in the world.
Full of contradictions, the Sassi di Matera have hosted the poorest part of its inhabitants untile the most recent years. Now things are slowly changing but there are still a lot of things to do. For sure, Matera is worth a visit which should include at least one night. Wandering here after the sunset is a mystic experience. It is the closest idea I have of walking on the moon.
In the province of Matera stands the ghost town of Craco surrounded by Calanchi, Badlands.
The village was abandoned in 1963. Its inhabitants moved Craco Peschiera. Here you will find a Norman Tower, badlands created by the water erosion and one of the many breathtaking views this region offers. If strolling in Matera is like walking on the moon, wandering inside the ghost town of Craco represents a time travel: can you hear the voices of the people who used to live, work, laugh, cry and dream here?
Facing the Ionian Sea, Metaponto is a little village in the Taranto Gulf but it is still in the Province of Matera.
Here you can enjoy a day at the beach or visit the remains of Greek Temples as Metaponto was one of the most important colonies in Italy of the Ancient Greece.
Marina di Pisticci
Not far from the Greek Archeological Area of Metaponto, you can find the beautiful Marina di Pisticci with white houses and golden beaches. Here the sea is crystal blue and relax is mandatory. But you can also take a stroll under the pine trees. My suggestion: the beach, a book, the beach, a cold drink, the beach, a nap, did I already mention the beach?
Why visiting Basilicata?
So, there are ten good reasons to visit this incredible region. I will come back soon to write about the delicacies Basilicata has to offer. After all this wandering, you need energy, vitamins and minerals. Can you think of something better than (great) food?
All photos are from my lovely friend Francesca Santarsiero. You can find her on Instagram here: @fransant2212