The village, located on the slopes of Mount Croccia, boasts ancient origins, so much so that in the Middle Ages it was a fief of the Knights of Malta. On the top of the mountain it is possible to explore the remains of the ancient fortified city named, according to some scholars, Gallipolis, a toponym that we also find in the nearby forest. Of the city, dating back to the 6th-4th century BC, sections of the acropolis walls made with large blocks of square stone are still visible today. Not far away is the Stone Grotto “della Mola”, in which important megalithic complexes were found, considered by experts to be a kind of “Lucanian Stonehenge”.
The village of Oliveto Lucano is dominated by the ruins of a feudal castle. Of considerable interest are the wooden doors of its cellars, called “Gates of Bacchus”, made by local artisans, called “Shipwrights”, between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The painted ceramic panels that decorate Piazza Umberto I made by artist Ugo Annona are also quite valuable.
The Mother Church in Romanesque style is dedicated to Our Lady of Grace (Madonna delle Grazie) and inside it preserves a painted wooden altar from the 16th century, a polychrome wooden crucifix from the 18th century and the wooden statues of San Cipriano (18th century), protector of Oliveto, and San Rocco. Worth a visit is also the Piano di Campo Chapel, which houses the polychrome wooden sculpture of the Madonna del Campo dated to the 18th century.
Oliveto Lucano also becomes the theatre of the arboreal rite of the Maggio Olivetese: the two “spouses”, the Turkey oak and the holly top are chosen from the most beautiful and luxuriant specimens of the Gallipoli Cognato forest, one is usually cut on the first Sunday of August and the other is selected and cut on 10 August. The two trees are transported to the village using tractors and are then grafted and raised. The rite has a propitiatory meaning of fecundity and fertility and takes place during the celebrations of San Rocco.