Rocks. That’s the first thing that comes to people’s minds when the Italian region of Basilicata is mentioned. Yes, rocks. Basilicata may not be as popular as other Italian regions such as Tuscany, Umbria or Lombardy but it’s actually a lovely place with a lot to offer, and what rocks they do have, are really remarkably pretty. If you ever find yourself planning an off-the-beaten-path holiday in Italy, then here are the ten things you need to know about Basilicata!
Sassi di Matera and its prehistoric caves
A favorite among natural history fans, Sassi di Matera (or “Stones of Matera”. Haha. Rocks…) is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a system of ancient cave dwellings, caverns, and streets that is suspected to be one of the first human settlements in Italy, with origins that can be traced back to the prehistoric period. The Sassiwas actually inhabited up until the 1950s, but since then, settlers have been relocated due to health and sanitation reasons. With the help of the EU, the government, and UNESCO, however, Sassi di Matera has been revitalized and is now the site of many businesses and hotels. Hollywood may have also helped to bring the Sassi back on the map, since it’s been used as the set for films such as The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), King David (1985), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and The Nativity Story (2006).
A charming town in the province of Potenza,its main sights includes an 11th century castle and baronial palace which served as the residence for figures such as Mary of Hungary, and several Italian noble families such as the Caracciolos and the Dorias. It also has its own cathedral that boasts a beautiful 13th century fresco, the Madonna with Child and Angels, while the Palazzo del Vescovado is also a popular spot, as it contains paintings by the medieval artist Nicholas of Tolentino, and renaissance painter Cristiano Danona. Another place to see would be the MuseoNazionaleArcheologicoMelfese.
Pollino National Park
The Pollino National Park is one of the largest parks in Italy and contains many archeological and natural points of interest. It is one of the last places in the country where Bosnian pine grows, and its area spans several smaller towns with their own attractions. To name a few, there’s MoranoCalabro which has been named as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, and the town of Cerchiara di Calabriawhere the 11th century church Santuario Madonna DelleArmi stands.
Basilicata has GREAT wine
It might not be known to many, but Basilicata is actually the source of some very good wine, the Aglianicodel Vulturewhich bears the highest appellation ofDOCG. In fact, the wine is so good, that the Poste Italiane has a stamp dedicated to it. So, yes.Awesome wine. ‘Nuff said.
Carmine Crocco, the folk hero
Regarded by locals as a 19th century cross between Robin Hood and Che Guevara, Carmine Crocco is a popular figure in the region, especially in his home town of Rionero in Vulture. In fact, an annual theater production called La Storia Bandita has him as the main character, and in 2008, the La Tavern r Crocc (or The Tavern of Crocco) was established in his honor.
Summer fun in Metaponto and Policoro
These two ancient towns are popular tourist spots in the summer, thanks to their beautiful, powdery white sands. They also have their share of ruins, museums, and galleries.
Lagonegro and the Mona Lisa
A beautiful spot for sightseeing, it has several ancient Roman churches, and is also rumored to be the final resting place of Lisa del Giocondo, the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned painting, the Mona Lisa.
Craco, the Ghost Town
Yes, my dear urban explorers and lovers of abandoned places, you read that right. Craco is pretty much a ghost town, and almost all that remains of it are ruins of homes that have been uninhabited since 1963, when the entire population was moved due to severe geological threats. There still are a handful of inhabitants, though, mostly hanging around the small chapel of Sant’ Angelo which houses old religious relics of the mummified body of the martyred patron saint of the town, San Vincenzo Martire.
Chiaromonte’s ancient history
A town of about 2000 people in Potenza, Chiaromonte has origins that date back to the Roman era.As can be expected, pre-Hellenic sites and artifacts abound in this area, the oldest and most prominent of which is a section of the original wall that once surrounded the town, known affectionately as Il Portello (The Door). It also has its share of notable ancient castles and churches, most of which date back to medieval times.
Grotta dell’Angelo’s cave adventures
For those who love nature excursions, visiting the underground caverns of Grotta dell’Angelo is a must. There are guided boat tours that safely take visitors through the cave system with the help of illuminated water paths, so that you can admire the gorgeous stalactites and stalagmites, and other ancient natural formations inside.
So there you have it. Good wine, ancient history, beautiful sights, and a rich local culture (and VERY pretty rocks) these are just a few of the things that one can find in Basilicata, and the only reason we’re stopping at ten is because this post is getting too long.Now, get out there and explore, and find your favorite spot in lovely Basilicata!