The film was produced independently and shot in Italy primarily in the old city of Matera, and in the ghost town of Craco in Basilicata. To visit Basilicata gave me the possibility to go through the most significant stages of the Mel Gibson’s Film “The Passion of the Christ”‘s location and to explore an italian region that is still wild, mysterious, and on the verge of discovery ! I spent a little over a week in Basilicata . It is a place to which few people travel, an Italy’s hidden treasure – especially for anyone who likes Art, Culture, Unfogerttable Lanscapes, Wine & Food. I used Potenza, Basilicata‘s regional capital, as a base for discovering the most beautiful and charming corners of it.
Its population of approximately 600,000 people resides in the two provinces, Matera and Potenza, with the capital in Potenza. After World War II the importance of Basilicata started to become widely recognised, most notably when the “Sassi di Matera” became a “UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994”. You are spoilt for choice in Basilicata with its various types of landscapes, such as:
- Relaxed seaside towns of Metaponto and Policoro ;
- The Ionian Coast;
- The deserted ghost town of Craco;
- The Historical Natural Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera ;
- 4 Natural Parks;
- Pollino Natural’s Park and the “Flight of the Eagle”;
- The beauty of Gallipoli Cognato Park;
- The National Park of “Appennino Lucano Val d’Agri Lagonegrese” ;
- “Marriage of the trees“;
- “Monticchio lakes“;
- Venosa , the city of the Great Latin Poet Horace;
- Melfi a medieval town important throughout the Middle Ages when it became the Norman Capital of Southern Italy;
- Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa;
- Aliano and its “Carlo Levi’s Literary Park”
The western part of Basilicatais traditionally known as “Lucania” , named in ancient times for the “Lucani” population meaning “white,” “wolf,” or “sacred wood.” The name Basilicata, from the Greek name “basilikos” ( “imperial”) was given by the Byzantines in the sixth century A.D. Basilicata boasts one of the most ancient histories on the Italian peninsula, with archaeological sites of homo erectus dating back to the Paleolithic age . In ancient and modern history, the region has survived under the rules of the Greeks, Romans, Germans, Byzantines, Saracens, Muslim, Normans, Kingdom of Naples, Kingdom of Sicily, and, finally, the country of Italy. This extensive exposure to several cultures has cultivated a rich culture and proud, tightly-knit population who remained relatively agrarian and poor until recent years, when its potential was recognized by tourists and industrial entrepreneurs alike.
As beautiful as Basilicata is , it’s difficult to reach it, that’s because it is not often visited by tourists.
You really must choose to come. There are no major airports . It’s better to go by car o by train. This is the only disadvantage for an holiday in Basilicata, but that is nothing compared to its natural beauty! Basilicata is a land full of history and of many influences.
My 5 Top Places to visit in Basilicata
- Potenza: it’s the capital of Basilicata and at an altitude of 819m, Potenza is the highest regional capital in Italy. Nestled within the Apennine Mountains, the city overlooks the Basento River valley;
- Matera: it’s the most interesting city in this region. Its ancient neighorhood has been preserved as an outdoor museum with cave-like dwellings built into the tufo rock where many citizens of this impoverished and forgotten region lived along with their livestock. You must also visit its Romanesque Cathedral and its several 9th-century churches with Byzantine frescoes in Matera;
- Metaponto: Basilicata‘s Ionian coast. It is dotted with large tourist resorts. It was a Greek Achaean colony known as Metapontum. There is an archaeological site, all that remains of a prosperous city of tens of thousands, that is twinned with a museum;
- Maratea the pearl of the Tyrrhenian: It’s a hill village high above the sea on Italy’s southern Tyrrhenian coast, in the region of Basilicata. The setting is impressive: below steep wooded slopes, with sparkling glimpses of the sea through a steep pass, and high bare-ridged mountains stretching inland. The area around the town includes little beaches, a marina and a hill crowned by a giant the Statue of Christ the Redeemer;
- Rio Nero in Vulture: It’s located on the slopes of Monte Vulture in the northern part of the region, famous for “the Aglianico delle Vulture Wine” one of the best red wines of Southern Italy.
Cantine del Notaio
None of my Stops would be complete in Basilicata without a good bottle of wine!
“The Cantine del Notaio” in Rio Nero in Vulture, is one of the Best Wineries in Italy. From 1998, “The Cantine del Notaio” enhances “the Aglianico delle Vulture Wine”, combining tradition, innovation, history and culture. The “Aglianico Grape” has been known since ancient Greek times. Celebrated by the Latin Poet Horace, it grows at the slopes of the “the Mount Vulture”. Particular features of this area determines the constitution “Aglianico Grape”: the fertile volcanic soil that is rich in mineral elements and the tufo rock layers that act as water reservoirs during the drier periods of the year. “The Mount Vulture” is an extinct volcano that nourishes on its slopes “the Aglianico delle Vulture Wines” and centuries-old olive trees. It is the custodian of Basilicata a territory full of History, Art, Natural and Landscape riches, Wine and Food traditions and a Big Hospitality.
Basilicata is even 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 are a perfect blending of traditional and contemporary ingredients. You can taste the famous Senise peppers (IGP); in August, the little town of Senise hosts a food festival dedicated to these delicious peppers (Giornate del peperone). Another typical product is Rotonda red eggplant (DOP). Usually orange with shades of green and white flesh, it is incredibly tasty; raw or cooked, it is used to prepare sweet and savoury dishes. 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.
Basilicata truly is one of Italy’s greatest historical treasures. The rich history of the region can be seen in its architecture, ranging from the exquisite rock churches of Byzantine monks to Longobard, Angevin, Norman-Swabian, Benedictine, Franciscan and Romanesque architecture. Frescoes, paintings, and sculpted objects throughout Basilicata represent a long and beautiful artistic heritage, such as the archaeological ruins of Eraclea and Metapontum are also part of this region.
Enjoy it !