Basilicata. Heard of it? Perhaps not. It is, after all, as The Telegraph described it, ‘the forgotten corner of Italy’. The Guardian hasn’t even covered it.
Basilicata makes up the instep of Italy, flanked by Calabria in the toe and Puglia in the heel. Whilst the terrain is largely mountainous, the region is equally famous for its great swathes of white sand, turquoise waters and grandiose archaeological parks.
It’s also one of the oldest settlements in the country. Prehistoric in fact. Paeleothic ruins lie scattered next to rock churches frescoed by Byzantine monks, ancient greek ruins are strewn across beaches and tiny medieval villages perch precariously on snowcapped mountains.
In fact, the more you think about it, it’s mad that we don’t know more about this region. Francis Ford Coppola (Director of the Godfather) hails from here, it houses one of the only self-portraits of Leonardi Da Vinci, a 1020m high zip-wire line which runs between two mountain villages, a city chipped into caves, natural thermal spas, some brilliant snorkelling opportunities, a ghost town, rare animal species including Apennine wolves, two of the top 10 romantic hotels in Italy, and some rather excellent food and wine.
It’s like an old fairytale version of Italy. We’re all fools for not registering it earlier.
Proving that there’s more to Italy further South than the Amalfi, here are a few more reasons to visit beautiful Basilicata.
1. THERE’S A REASON IT’S INSPIRED A GENERATION OF FILM DIRECTORS.
The diverse and dramatic landscape of the Basilicata has served as the backdrop to many a film, including James Bond, Passion of the Christ and Ben Hur. The stark, dramatic landscapes of Montescaglioso and Matera caves and ruins, combined with the white washed grottos of Matera give the landscape an otherworldly feel.
So enamored is Francis Coppola with his hometown, he has created a lavish resort in an 18th-century mansion, Palazzo Margherita in Bernaldo, which Conde Nast recently voted one of the most romantic hotels in Italy.
2. THERE’S AN EPIC COASTLINE
Basilicata sits between two coastlines - the Ionian and The Tyrrhenian, both of which offer seaside fun and frolics a plenty. Policoro offers shallow waters and white sands surrounded by pine forests, whilst in Maratea, you can rent out fishing boats and explore the coastal towns and caves of the Tyrrhenian coast. Metaponto is a beautiful strip of white sand surrounded by clear waters. Founded by the Greeks in 540A.D the coast backs onto a huge archaeological park, which features the remains of the Palatine tables, where knights gathered before heading off onto crusades, and Greek temples dedicated to Greek Gods Hera and Athena.
3. THERE’S AN ENTIRE CITY MADE OF CAVES
Once described as ‘the slum of Italy’, Matera is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2019 European Capital of Culture. The Sassi is an entire area comprising cave dwellings carved into the mountains. By the mid-twentieth century, these dwellings housed landless peasants, who lived crammed into the grottos amongst their livestock, without light, electricity, and sanitation. Shamed into action, the State relocated the entire population and the Sassi was rendered a ghost town until the 1980s.
4. IT’S THE PERFECT GET-AWAY FOR NATURE LOVERS.
For those partial to a pair of binoculars and a hiking boot, Basilicata is perfect. The region is home to several sprawling natural parks, including the Pollino National Park which covers an epic 1960 square kilometres of dense forestry, snow-capped mountains, and coastal views, around which you can hike, cycle, rock climb or white-water raft should you fancy it. Other points of interest include Monte Vulture (home to hilly volcanic districts), the Lucian Dolomites and the Riserva Naturale Lago Laudemio.
5. YOU CAN VISIT A GHOST TOWN
Bored by beaches? How about a deserted Medieval village? Located just 40km from Taranto, perched 400m above ground, sits Craco, a village which has been uninhabited for over fifty years. Once a monastic centre and useful vantage point for spotting potential attackers founded by the Greeks in 540AD, the entire city was forced to relocate in the mid-twentieth century, in response to reoccurring landslides and earthquakes. Displaced citizens lived in tent cities and barracks whilst the government struggled to create housing.
6. THRILL SEEKERS WILL ENJOY THIS ONE
‘Flight of the Angel’ is a 1042m zip wire line, suspended 1020m above ground, running between two mountain peaks. It offers speeds of up to 120km/h between Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano. Fans of watersports can enjoy wind surfing, water skiing and sailing along the Ionian coast, snorkelling and scuba diving on the Maratera Coast and rafting on the River Lao. Basilicata also offers a wide range of cycling paths for cycling enthusiasts and a number of outdoor adventure parks for family-friendly fun.
7. THE FOOD IS ON POINT
Vegetables, cheese, and pasta are the cornerstone of Basilicata cooking. Meats are minimal, aside from the eponymous Lucania Sausages, a pork sausage seasoned with fennel seeds and high-quality pork. Senise Peppers are long, sweet, crunchy peppers which are often dried and turned into a powder for seasoning. Most cheeses are made from sheep and goats, and the best include a hard Pecorino and a creamy cacioricotta. Like Puglia, Orecchiette is the staple pasta here. Other famous dishes include cialledde (a stew made from softened bread and veg), pupazzella (small hot peppers stuffed with anchovies and parsley) and ciammotta (fried aubergine, peppers, and potatoes). It all tastes a lot sexier than it sounds. Lovely big vineyards, make for lots of lovely wine, including Aglianico del Vulture (DOC) and Terra dell’ Alta Val d’Agri.
8. PEOPLE HERE LOVE BASILICATA AND THEY WANT YOU TO LOVE IT JUST AS MUCH AS THEY DO
This place is the epitome of hospitality. They just don't know how to be rude.
Want to learn more about Basilicata? Why not read up on the ancient dwellings of Matera or learn all about Pane di Matera.... and if you feel like sounding more Italian, these 10 phrases will make you sound like an absolute boss.