Last updated on July 4th, 2021
Little known even by Italians, Basilicata is one of Italy’s best regions for an offbeat journey between unspoilt landscapes, hilltop towns where time seems to have stopped and genuine people, proud of their longstanding traditions.
Isolated for long, Basilicata kept its authenticity
Forget the luxuriant hills of Tuscany, the aristocratic palaces of Venice or the magnificent Rome. The beauty of Basilicata is all but ostentatious, its charm is in the authenticity.
The long-standing isolation made for one of the poorest area of Italy, but it’s also what preserved Basilicata’s uniqueness, what makes it so different from other Italian regions and so special.[pullquote]A region highlighted thanks to the film industry and Hollywood[/pullquote]
Basilicata came in the limelight only recently, thanks to the Italian film industry first, and then Hollywood. The lunar landscape of the badlands, the surreal atmosphere of Craco ghost town, the stunning architecture of Matera with its cave dwellings, were chosen as locations for King David (1984, with Richard Gere), Mel Gibson’s controversial film The Passion of the Christ (2004) and a backdrop for a few scenes of Quantum of Solace (2008).
Francis Ford Coppola followed the footsteps of his grandfather who was born in the Basilicata region and, like many others, immigrated to the United States. In Bernalda, the birthplace of his grandpa Agostino, Francis Ford Coppola bought Palazzo Margherita, a beautiful house of the late 19th century, which he transformed into a luxury boutique hotel, opened in 2012 after being the setting for his daughter Sofia’s wedding.
I had the privilege of visiting Palazzo Margherita, enjoying a delicious lunch in the lovely courtyard and strolling in the lush garden. The hotel is an oasis of peace and I can easily imagine why wealthy people would want to spend a few days in one of the nine suites.
Beautiful Matera is a must-see, but the Basilicata region has much more beauty
Albeit tourism increased in the recent years, Basilicata is rarely included in a classic tour of Italy, remaining a destination for cultivated travellers looking for offbeat places.
The most popular spot is by far Matera, the city famous for ‘I Sassi’, the cave dwellings of prehistoric origins declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 for being the most outstanding human prehistoric settlement in the Mediterranean area and likely one of the first human settlement in Italy.
For most people, visiting the Basilicata region means a one or two days trip to Matera as an extension from the Puglia region, but there’s much more aside the famous ‘Sassi’, the houses excavated into limestone rock.
Half of the region is covered by mountains and the rugged and untamed landscape reveals breathtaking sceneries. The short stretch of coastline overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea, with the enchanting town of Maratea, is wild and beautiful. Hilltop towns like the pretty hamlets of Castelmezzano and Tursi are like a jump in the past, safeguarded by the old local people whose faces covered by wrinkles are the most awesome expression of popular wisdom.
Note: I’m grateful to Can’t Forget It (aly) and APT Basilicata for the invitation to Basilicata and the opportunity to discover one of the most interesting areas of Italy. As always, opinions are only mine.