If you're looking for a spectacular and still undiscovered region in Italy to explore look no further than Basilicata.
An overview of the Basilicata region
Karen Haid and I talked about her Basilicata: Authentic Italy book in this episode. I read it in an afternoon because I was so captivated and riveted by the information Karen shares about the Basilicata region. If you think this is a region you'd like to explore start first by reading Karen's book.
I was so enthralled after reading the book, and after recording this podcast episode, that I'm now creating a weeklong trip to Basilicata to share each and every fascinating detail of the region with you! More on that later…
On Karen Haid's website it says this about Basilicata and the book: "Journey to the small, rocky region in the heart of the Italian south, to a land where ancient pagan rites live alongside those of the Catholic Church, world-class wine washes down edible hyacinth bulbs, zip-lines parallel old mule trails, and the air is infused with the ideals of Roman poets and brigands. Best known for the evocative cave dwellings of Matera, Basilicata packs an incredible diversity into the unassuming instep of the Italian boot. To discover what makes this region tick, the author traverses Mediterranean beaches and Alpine forests, visits medieval castles and modest homes, attends folkloric festivals and samples earthy local cuisine, uncovering Basilicata past and present, from pre-Greek to the story of emigration that continues today."
You're probably familiar with the Italian author Carlo Levi, best known for his book Christ Stopped at Eboli.
Carlo Levi was confined as a political prisoner in Aliano - right in the mountainous center of the Basilicata region - because he opposed Italy's Fascist government at the onset of the Ethiopian war in 1935. In his book Levi writes about the rugged Basilicata landscape and its peasant inhabitants. Levi says in his book "To me Lucania is genuine, more-so than anywhere else, one of the most authentic places in the world."
Basilicata or Lucania?
The region has changed its name repeatedly and Karen explains the historical reasons why this has happened. Now the region is known as Basilicata, but as late as the second world war Mussolini changed the name back to Lucania - in his view the region's most historical name.
There's one confusing little detail in the region's name. Although it's called Basilicata people from the region are still known as lucani (lucano if you're a man, lucana if you're a woman).
Where is the Basilicata region?
The Basilicata region is in the southernmost part of Italy, right on the instep of the boot. The instep faces out onto the Ionian Sea and lined with beautiful sandy beaches, like this one in Metaponto.
Just a very tiny strip of the Basilicata region borders the Tyrrhenian Sea. This coastal area is more rugged and flanked by the mountainous areas of the Basilicata region, but it also has beautiful beaches.
The Basilicata region borders three southern Italian regions: Campania to the west, Puglia to the east and Calabria to the south where Maratea is located.
The two provinces of the Basilicata region: Potenza and Matera
Matera is the better known of the two regions especially because the capital city Matera is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's almost along the border with Puglia and frequently visitors to Matera think they are in the Puglia region. This is mostly due to the fact that the Basilicata region is not well known at all whereas Puglia is becoming a haven for tourists.
Potenza is the capital city of the Potenza province, the mountainous province of the two. The capital city definitely merits a visit although it's not a simple matter to get there. There's about a mile of steps and escalators to take you up to the top into the town. You could drive up but there's nowhere you can leave your car. Potenza is the highest regional capital and one of the highest provincial capitals in Italy.
How to get to Basilicata?
You can fly or take a train to Naples, or Bari in the Puglia region. Then you can either rent a car or travel by bus to Basilicata.
This is a region that's best visited by car so that you can access all of the unusual and wondrous towns throughout the region. Take the time to explore up into the mountains and drive along the coastal areas. And of course a visit to Matera, the world heritage site, is a must.
You can reach Basilicata by car from Rome and the north of Italy following the Adriatic coast, along the A14 Bologna-Taranto highway and on the Tyrrhenian coast, along the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway.
Naples - Potenza 158 km
Bari - Matera 67 km
Rome - Potenza 369 km
Rome - Matera 425 km
Do you have a comment or something you'd like to share with me? Scroll down to the very, very end of this page to reach the Please Leave Your Comment section.
I'd love to have your feedback and questions!
What to eat and drink in the Basilicata region
There's fabulous wine in the Basilicata region and the Aglianico native grape wines are the best known, especially Aglianico Vulture. Great wine doesn't end with Aglianico and one of my favorite Basilicata wines is this Malandrina Matera Moro produced on the exquisite Cardillo estate.
If you're on Basilicata's Tyrrhenian coast you'll find some delicious local seafood:
Inland, and especially up in the mountains, you'll find some unusual dishes like lampascioni, a unique bulb vegetable that is a type of hyacinth. It's similar to a small bitter onion with a strong flavor and delicate aftertaste that lends an interesting character to local dishes.
The bread from Matera is unique and delicious. The loaves are large and per IGP indications must be 1 kg to 2kg per loaf. There's are three cuts on top of the loaf symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
Karen talks about a local heritage breed of cattle found in southern Italy, Podolica. It's a hearty race and very adaptable and well able to survive difficult environments like Basilicata's mountainous terrain and vegetation. Sometimes the cattle are used in local festivals like these:
More about Basilicata and its neighboring regions
Explore Basilcata with me...Coming Soon! - I'm working on this trip right now and it'll be ready to share with you soon! Plan to explore towns you might never have heard of: ghost towns, hill towns, and towns that are the backdrop for Hollywood movies. Explore Basilicata's history dating way back to several centuries BC. Basilicata is full of wondrous archaeological sites and architectural gems. You'll taste some great food and wine and learn to make some local dishes like the famed Matera bread and strascinati lucani, a local pasta dish.
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.