There are numerous good reasons to take a trip to this largely untamed, undiscovered part of Southern Italy but we’ve pulled together ten – just in time for Christmas!
- Wander around the Sassi districts
Matera is best known for its extensive cave-dwelling districts, the Sassi, which have been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. The Sassi provide a stunning backdrop of stairways and narrow lanes, cave-houses carved out of the rock, rock churches with beautiful frescoes, and elegant buildings. Drifting through this beautiful and unique city and soaking in your surroundings is not the only thing that Matera, one of the two 2019 European Capitals of Culture, has to offer. Visit one of the museums in this ancient city which is steeped in history and art or go to the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, which consists of more than 150 rock churches. In Matera you can also taste some of the traditional cuisine of Southern Italy, rich in typical local products. Make sure you don’t miss the flavourful and famous bread of Matera (IGP) as you explore the dreamy streets of the Sassi.
- Dive into the past with the Ionian Coast
Thirty-five kilometres of golden beaches and wonderful, vast stretches of fine 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 the 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 also offers plenty of activities for sport lovers, such as golf, sailing, surfing, canoeing and diving to mention a few. You will find a variety of accommodation facilities, fully equipped to suit all travellers’ needs, whether you are looking for a sun and surf holiday or one spent among museums and the ruins of ancient temples.
- Uncover 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. 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 vessels, from yachts to luxury boats.The charming town itself is also worth a visit. At night, the centre comes to life, with glamorous bars and piazzas dotted with café tables. On top of Mount San Biagio the statue of Christ the Redeemer towers over the coastline. The 22 metre high statue dominates the skyline above the Gulf of Policastro above the town sometimes called the ‘Pearl of the Tyrrhenian’.
- Take active holidays in four 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 rare and beautiful Bosnian pines (Pino Loricato), including one about a thousand years old. Beside Pollino National Park, the National Park of Appennino Lucano Val d’Agri Lagonegrese includes territory belonging to 29 municipalities and nestles along the border of Basilicata.
Located within the Regional Park of Gallipoli Cognato are the craggy peaks of the Lucanian Dolomites, where ancient arboreal rites, like the traditional festival of the Marriage of the Trees, still take place today. You can also experience the Flight of the Angel, an exciting zip-wire ride that stretches between two villages perched on the mountain tops.
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, places of worship and sanctuaries. The landscape here is as unique as Matera’s beauty.
A variety of activities including hiking, climbing, mountain-biking, skiing, and rafting are possible within the rugged and breath-taking landscape of Basilicata’s natural parks, making them the perfect destinations for those who feel excitement calling.
- 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. When exiled to Basilicata by the fascists in 1935, Levi spent eight months in the village of Aliano and fell so deeply love with it 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. Basilicata is also home to the literary park of Isabella Morra, in Valsinni, and the Albino Pierro literary park in Tursi. Why not discover their literature and then immerse yourselves in their worlds?
- Fly through Basilicata
In Basilicata, the places and things to evoke emotions are endless and you can even experience the thrill of flying. In the breath-taking landscape of the Lucanian Dolomites, you can be travel at very high speeds, from heights of up to 400 m, suspended on a 1000 m wire that stretches between two mountain-top towns, Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano which belong to I Borghi più Belli d’Italia, a group of Italy’s most beautiful villages. If you want to share the flight 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 thrilling free fall descent down the valley along a 1000 m steel cable, at speeds of up to 90 kmph, combining a safe adrenaline rush with a family-friendly experience!
- Encounter 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 in the craters of an extinct volcano. In the surrounding area lies 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 allow you to travel through time, discovering the stories of the manor and its ancient inhabitants.
You can continue your journey into the world of Frederick II in Melfi Castle, which was said to be the favourite residence of the Emperor. From here, in 1231, he issued the famous “Constitutiones Augustales”, also known as “Constitutions of Melfi”, a legal code that regulated feudal rights.
- Explore mountain villages and ghost towns
The small region of Basilicata features very high mountains and deep valleys dotted with countless villages clinging to the mountainsides. Each of them is filled with historical and architectural wonders and works of art and are worth visiting! The villages of Acerenza, Castelmezzano, Guardia Perticara, Pietrapertosa, Venosa, Viggianello are part of a group of the most beautiful villages in Italy, I Borghi più Belli d’Italia.
Basilicata is also home to two ‘ghost towns’ that have been abandoned over the years. Today they can be visited for 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. The old town of Campomaggiore (Campomaggiore Vecchia) was built in the 1700s, destroyed by a landslide in 1885 and is now also an interesting ghost town.
- Taste 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 contain the perfect blend of traditional and contemporary ingredients.
Try the famous Senise peppers (IGP) – in August, the little town of Senise hosts a food festival dedicated to these delicious peppers (Giornate del peperone) – or Rotonda red eggplant (DOP). Usually orange with shades of green and white flesh, it is incredibly tasty and is used to prepare sweet and savoury dishes, raw or cooked. 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. Going to Basilicata is not only a journey in miles but also in discovering delicious tastes.
- 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 also worth a visit and 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 while 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 and definitely warrants discovering and then savouring!