Basilicata: Beauty in Light and Shade
With the alternation of the sun and moon, places acquire a continually changing fascination: details hidden by evening shadows are illuminated by day, and the beauties of the day are concealed by evening's discreet cloak of mystery.
Whether a bas-relief, the altar of a church built into rock, traces of ancient frescoes or visible signs of past eras, few regions can compare with the way Basilicata reveals itself in its details far more than in its entirety, with the warm rays of the sun, or the soft glow of the moon, highlighting a mosaic made up of exquisite pieces.
regional capital, Potenza
, looks its best in bright sunlight. Entering by the ancient gates of San Giovanni, San Luca or San Gerardo, at the heart of the historic centre stands the 13th-century cathedral, the work of Vanvitelli's students. Archaeological excavations have brought to light interesting remains of a polychrome mosaic floor from the 4th century BC.
Potenza also has contemporary art on display at the Exhibition Hall of the Biblioteca Nazionale, which hosts numerous openings and exhibitions by original contemporary artists.
Not far from Potenza is Senise
, a small town where the picturesque narrow streets and stairways of the historic centre lead to the imposing castle from 1200, complete with towers and battlements. The town is famous for its peperone di Senise, a small capsicum which in 1996 was awarded the IGP seal of protected origin and quality.
Another town with a rich history in the province of Potenza is Venosa, a thriving centre that is the proud owner of the ruins of a Roman baths and an amphitheatre, evidence of its ancient origin.
But when the sun sinks gently towards the end the day, that is the moment for visiting Matera
, the symbol of Basilicata and world famous for its homes dug into the rock and still inhabited up until a few decades ago. The Sassi
, concrete evidence of the wretched living conditions endured by the townspeople of that time, were condemned by Carlo Levi in his book Christ Stopped at Eboli
. Today the Sassi have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage
site and restoration work has given them an extraordinary dignified charm that the gentle evening shadows seem to jealously protect.
Meanwhile, the sun has risen again and archaeology lovers will enjoy starting the day with a visit to Metaponto, the ancient city-state where Pythagoras took refuge. The warm sunshine is an invitation to go on to the beautiful Gulf of Policastro and discover Maratea, enclosed like a precious jewel. This seaside resort is known for its uncontaminated sea and succession of alleys, doorways and artisans workshops that animate the charming historic centre in the upper part of the town. A stop for a meal inevitably leads to the discovery of Basilicata's deep-rooted culinary traditions, such as the exquisite carboncello, a mushroom that lends itself to many delicious dishes, the Sarconi bean, which is great with pasta, or Avigliano dried salted cod cooked with peppers.
There is no place better than an agritourism for sampling the culinary delights of an area rich in flavours. The many comfortable premises in the region will brighten a holiday where light and shadow succeed each other in search of beauty.
The day comes to an end and the curtain of sky opens to welcome the moon, the indisputable star of the night whose soft glow casts an almost dreamlike quality over this ancient land, inviting contemplation and gratitude for its existence.
Did You Know That…?
"Basilicata exists a little like the concept of God: either you believe it or you don't." So says Rocco Papaleo in the famous film Basilicata Coast to Coast, in which a band of musicians walk from Maratea to Scanzano Jonico to take part in a festival.
Among the most fascinating places in the film is the ghost town of Craco, completely uninhabited since 1963 following a landslide. The ghostly appearance of the town with its abandoned alleyways has provided the setting for numerous films, among them The She-Wolf by Alberto Lattuada, Christ Stopped at Eboli by Francesco Rosi and, more recently, The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson.