Basilicata - Italy
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Somewhere different, somewhere new and off the beaten track – that’s Basilicata, or Lucania as the locals prefer to call it. It is lovely, and we can’t recommend it enough. Undeniably off-beat, joyfully unspoilt, and sure to entice our more adventurous clients, if nothing else, because of its obscurity factor! Sharing its borders with Apulia, Calabria and Campania, it’s a region with two distinctly separate coastlines: one facing the Tyrrhenian Sea to the south-west, and the other facing south-east where the Ionian Sea dilutes the Gulf of Taranto. Mountain grandeur typifies the interior, in fact only eight per cent of Basilicata is classed as plain, so expect dramatic 2000 metre-high scenery, legendary food and wine and the most get-away-from-it-all-type holiday you’re ever likely to find in the Mediterranean.

Ever since the 8th century BC, when the Greeks first landed here, Basilicata’s ancient roads have seen the passage of Samnites, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Saracens and Albanians, to name but a few. Some came to settle, some to conquer and some just to enjoy its striking contrasts of landscapes and seascapes. For whatever reason they came though, its strategic location, at the southern end of Italy’s Apennine spine of mountains, has assured it of much cultural legacy. At the same time, the Lucanians fiercely conserved their own identity through the ages so that, now, their own traditions, crafts, cuisine and music co-exist happily with ancient art, folklore and architecture - and all of this is on splendid display to you, the visitor.

When it comes to climate Basilicata is in a league of its own. Being a region of high and low altitudes, and boasting two different coastlines washed by two different seas, visitors make of the climate what they wish - go high for refreshing coolness, and even skiing on snow in autumn-winter, especially at La Sellata-Pierfaone just 24 kilometres from Potenza, the regional capital, or go low for the classic Mediterranean heat and cooling sea breezes to be found on the Tyrrhenian or Ionian beaches.

Among not-to-be-missed places is an amazing and infrequently visited town in a spectacular position, Matera is a honeycomb of houses and caves known as ’i sassi’ (the stones) which are carved into the steep side of a ravine and connected via a maze of alleys and staircases. For the adventurous, tours can be arranged via the local tourist office. Also to delight are around 130 amazing rock churches, mostly dating from the 11th century: good examples are Santa Maria di Idris with typical interior wall paintings and San Pietro Barisano.

We always recommend outdoor markets as the best way to experience real Italian food shopping. In the case of Basilicata they are even more relevant due to the virtual absence of the ubiquitous supermarket and hypermarket chains that proliferate in other regions. Whether you like it or not, most food shopping will have to be done in the noisy, colourful, fragrant and, typically Italian, open air market. Check for market days with your owner on arrival or at the local tourist office.

A Basilicata claim to fame is that pasta was invented there! Dispute this if you dare, but an irrefutable first-ever reference to it was made by the Latin poet Horace after 50BC when returning to his native Lucanian village. Anyway, alive and well today, the local pasta-making tradition offers us a bewildering array of pasta shapes in all sizes: fusilli, lagane, macaroni, capunti, cavatelli, orechietti and strascinati to name but a few. Another, maybe more dubious, claim for Basilicata is the invention of the original sausage, known as lucanica or lucanega in many parts of Ancient Roman Italy and which, locals will argue, therefore supports their claim. Either way, they’re excellent, try sopressate, dried and preserved in olive oil.

Like many mountain regions of Italy, Basilicata’s cuisine is sometimes spicy and strongly flavoured. Mature cheeses and ginger add depth and richness to many dishes while retaining that healthy Mediterranean quality - olive oil is always called upon in the preparation of most dishes while butter is used rather like cheese. And vegetables, on their own, or partnered with pasta or beans, are often enjoyed as a first course. Meat dishes figure deliciously, especially mutton or goat, grilled, braised or baked.

Basilicata’s wines are not of the highest ’official’ quality and vintage however they are seriously quaffable and cheap. Mentions should be made to look out for Aglianico del Vulture, the quality Basilicata red based on vines that were introduced in the days of Ancient Greece, and a great accompaniment to meats. Another fine red is Rosso di Roccanova. Among the best whites are the refreshing Asprino, which has a straw-green colour, and Vulcanello Bianco, produced in Rionero and possessing a similarity to the delectable Greco di Tufo
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20518 - (Sleeps 6)
Situated in a magnificent position commanding 360 degree views of the area surrounding the beautiful historical city of Matera, we are very...
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7021 - (Sleeps 4)
General At six thirty most evenings, the mass of mountains known as the Dolomiti Lucane, or Basilicata’s version of the Dolomites, turn from...
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