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Ten good reasons to visit Basilicata, “Italy’s secret garden”

Discover Basilicata

  1. Wander around the “Sassi” districts
  2. The Ionian Coast: a dive into the past
  3. Maratea, the pearl of the Tyrrhenian
  4. Active holidays in 4 natural parks
  5. A journey through Carlo Levi’s literature
  6. Flying in Basilicata
  7. The world of Frederick II
  8. Mountain villages and ‘ghost towns’
  9. Regional cuisine: DOP and IGP products
  10. Discover a great red wine

Wander around the “Sassi” districts

Lonely Planet: Matera as one of the top 10 cities Best in Travel 2018

Matera is best known for its extensive cave-dwelling districts, the “Sassi”, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. A stunning backdrop of stairways and narrow lanes, cave-houses carved out of the rock, rock churches with beautiful frescoes, and elegant buildings. Matera is the European Capital of Culture 2019 and offers plenty of attractions: you can visit one of its museums or go for a walk in the ancient town, steeped in history and art. It is well worth visiting the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, which consists of more than 150 rock churches, filled with ancient spirituality. In Matera you can also taste traditional cuisine of Southern Italy, rich in typical products, and the flavourful Matera bread (IGP).

The Ionian Coast: a dive into the past

Thirty-five kilometers of golden, fine sandy beaches and wonderful, vast stretches of sand: here the blue of the sky and the sea merge in the dazzling light of the Mediterranean. This is the Ionian Coast, a place steeped in history, mythological heroes and gods, philosophers and warriors of the ancient civilization of “Magna Grecia”. Home to sea-turtles, the coastline provides the perfect setting for a relaxing holiday, surrounded by natural wonders and a wealth of ancient Greek ruins.

The Ionian Coast offers plenty of activities for sport lovers, such as golf, sailing, surfing, canoeing and diving, just to mention some of them. You will find a variety of accommodation facilities, fully equipped to suit all travellers’ needs.

Maratea, the pearl of the Tyrrhenian

Nestled in the Gulf of Policastro, Maratea is the ideal location for your seaside holidays. It is a land of paradisiacal surroundings and vibrant colours, where dark green vegetation contrasts sharply with the iridescent blue of the sky and the sea.

Maratea is the ideal location for boat lovers to explore little islands, secluded coves and pristine beaches. The town boasts a truly unique and picturesque harbour: the port of Maratea is well-equipped and hosts different kinds of boats, from yachts to luxury boats.

The charming village of Maratea is definitely worth a visit. On night time, the centre comes to life, with its glamorous bars and piazzas dotted with café tables. On top of Mount San Biagio, towering over Maratea coastline, there is the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The 22-metre-high statue dominates the skyline above the Gulf of Policastro and can be seen from many points of the town.

Active holidays in 4 natural parks

Several protected areas, two national parks and two regional parks cover approximately 30% of Basilicata, offering visitors a variety of itineraries, sport and outdoor activities, cultural events and festivals. Pollino National Park is Italy’s largest park, a huge green area dotted with small villages. It is an ideal location for exciting excursions to see the Bosnian Pine (Pino Loricato), a thousand-year tree that grows only in this area.

The National Park of “Appennino Lucano Val d’Agri Lagonegrese” includes territory belonging to 29 municipalities. It is nestled between two large natural reserves: Pollino National Park and Cilento National Park.

Located within the Regional Park of Gallipoli Cognato are the craggy peaks of the Lucanian Dolomites, where ancient arboreal rites, like the traditional ‘Marriage of the trees’, still take place today. Here you can also experience the “Flight of the Angel”, an exciting zip-wire ride that stretches between two villages.

The Historical Natural Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera boasts outstanding scenery with more than 150 churches carved out of the rock. Over the centuries, the caves have been used as shelter, place of worship and sanctuary. The landscape here is as unique as Matera’s beauty.

A journey through Carlo Levi’s literature

Aliano is a little village located in one of the most unusual, scenic, magical and spiritual places of Basilicata. The surrounding clay landscape is characterised by naturally-eroded gullies and ravines, typical of this part of the region. This is the rough, “moon-like landscape of Calanchi”, described in Carlo Levi’s book, “Christ stopped at Eboli”. During his exile, Levi fell in love with the village of Aliano so much that, before dying, he asked to be buried in the village’s cemetery. In Aliano there is a literary park dedicated to Carlo Levi: a journey through some of the key places linked to the writer, who spent eight months in the village after being banished by the fascists in 1935. Basilicata is also home to the literary park of Isabella Morra, in Valsinni, and the “Albino Pierro” literary park in Tursi.

Flying in Basilicata

In Basilicata, where emotions are endless, you can even experience the thrill of flying. “Volo dell’Angelo”: in the breathtaking landscape of the Lucanian Dolomites, you will be travelling at very high speeds and heights of up to 400 m, suspended on a 1000 m wire that stretches between two mountain-top towns, Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa, among “Italy’s most beautiful villages”.

If you want to share the experience, you can go to San Costantino Albanese, a little village within Pollino National Park, and try the “Flight of the Eagle”, a flying adventure for up to four people to enjoy together. You will be harnessed into a four seat glider, which makes an exhilarating free fall descent down the valley along a 1000 m steel cable, at speeds of up to 90 kmph.  A safe adrenaline rush for a family-friendly experience!

The world of Frederick II

In Basilicata, in the Vulture area, you can still feel the spirit of the Swabian Emperor Frederick II. The landscape is characterised by thick woods and is home to Monticchio lakes, which formed on the craters of an extinct volcano. In the surrounding area there is Lagopesole castle, which was used as a stopover for hunting by the Emperor. In the summer, the castle houses a night-time show, where multivision screenings and special effects on the walls of the castle will make you travel through time, discovering the stories of the manor and its ancient inhabitants.

You can continue your journey in the world of Frederick II in Melfi Castle, which was said to be the favorite residence of the Swabian Emperor. From here, in 1231, he issued the famous “Constitutiones Augustales”, also known as “Constitutions of Melfi”, a legal code that regulated feudal rights.

Mountain villages and ‘ghost towns’

Basilicata is a small region that features very high mountains and deep valleys dotted with countless villages, clinging to the mountainside. Each one of them is filled with historical and architectural wonders and works of art, and is definitely worth a visit! The villages of Acerenza, Castelmezzano, Guardia Perticara, Pietrapertosa, Venosa, Viggianello are among “Italy’s most beautiful villages”. Basilicata also houses two ‘ghost towns’ that have been abandoned over the years. Today they can be visited to live a truly unique experience. You should definitely make a stop in the ghost village of Craco, whose inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes after a landslide in 1969, leaving the town completely uninhabited. Since 2010 Craco has been part of a conservation project of the World Monuments Fund, as world cultural and historical heritage. The old town of Campomaggiore (“Campomaggiore vecchia”) was built in the 1700s, destroyed by a landslide in 1885 and is now a ghost town.

Regional cuisine: DOP and IGP products

Basilicata is a land rich in culinary traditions and unique flavours. Typical products bearing the DOP mark (PDO: Protected Designation of Origin) and IGP mark (PGI: Protected Geographical Indication) are used to prepare delicious dishes that are a perfect blending of traditional and contemporary ingredients.

You can taste the famous Senise peppers (IGP); in August, the little town of Senise hosts a food festival dedicated to these delicious peppers (Giornate del peperone). Another typical product is Rotonda red eggplant (DOP). Usually orange with shades of green and white flesh, it is incredibly tasty; raw or cooked, it is used to prepare sweet and savoury dishes. Other mouth-watering specialities include Matera bread, Canestrato cheese of Moliterno (IGP), Pecorino cheese of Filiano (DOP) and Sarconi beans (IGP). Basilicata gastronomy is also famous for its typical pork sausage known as “Lucanica”, which can be eaten fresh or dried and is best enjoyed with traditional hand-made pasta.

Discover a great red wine

One of the greatest Italian red wines, the Aglianico del Vulture DOC, is produced in Basilicata. The typical cellars where this exceptional red wine is produced are well worth a visit. There are a number of events and festivals dedicated to the Aglianico wine. Held every year in the castles of the Vulture area, the “Aglianica Wine Festival” offers a delightful experience for wine lovers. The stunning scenery of the “Parco Urbano delle Cantine” and the typical cellars of Sant’Angelo le Fratte host another wine festival, “Cantinando Wine&Art”. An essential part of the Lucanian table, the Aglianico wine is often enjoyed with typical cheese and meat.