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Basilicata (Sassi di Matera, Maratea) - Regions of Italy

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Focus: Sassi di Matera, Maratea

Jacki Christopher for Italy101.com

Located right in the arch of Italy's boot shape, Basilicata is a region of southern Italy, bordered by Calabria, Campania, and Apulia. Two short coastlines touch the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. Unlike its neighbor Apulia, which is a geographical mix of plains and mild hills, Basilicata is southern Italy’s most mountainous region—one of those mountains being the volcano, Monte Vulture.

When you choose a destination like Basilicata that hasn’t been overrun by the tourism industry, then you also open yourself up to a world of possibilities for exploration. But keep in mind that you may also face certain challenges. Lower tourism levels invariably translates into fewer workers and services designed to accommodate you. But travelers with a sense of adventure, keen to explore an undiscovered gem, will find that Basilicata makes a fine addition to the travel itinerary. Sacrifices in convenience are gained back in charming Italian authenticity. In Basilicata you enjoy ancient charm, outstanding outdoor attractions, and the freedom to go at your own pace. Sparsely populated, you won’t have to worry about fighting the crowds of the busier Italian destinations.

The crown jewel of the region is the Sassi di Matera. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sassi are ancient settlements carved out of caves that still exist intact to this day. Though the Sassi are no secret traveler’s discovery, a trip to Basilicata would be incomplete without a day spent wandering through the marvelously constructed caves and edifices.
Though the first dwellers date to the Paleolithic period, later inhabitants built and decorated churches within the caves during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Sassi are located in Basilicata’s Matera province.

For outstanding archeological ruins and to pay homage at the birthplace of the famous mathematician Pythagoras, plan to spend a day at Metaponto.
The Tavole Palatine temple is the highlight of the trip. And if your travel plans bring you to Basilicata during warm weather, then a day at the beaches of Maratea and a walk through the medieval village should be on your itinerary. Redentor, the giant statue of Christ, overlooks the town—you can hike up the hill for a better view.

Pollino National Park is Italy’s largest national park.
To explore the lush, mystical ancient forests and mountain peaks that characterize this region, hire a guide and then pick your favorite means of transportation— foot, bicycle, horseback, or raft.
This outstanding park is an adventure-lovers dream and unlike any other national park you’ve visited.

And for an experience in Basilicata you will never forget (if you live through it), the Flight of the Angel is a must. Located in the Gallipolli National Park, the high-speed cable zipwire connects the two mountain peaks of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa. At speeds of up to 120kph, you rocket between the peaks. If adrenaline is your drug of choice, the Volo dell’Angelo is an overdose. But the Volo is only open during summer and early fall—make sure to plan your trip before the end of the season!

Like many of the regions of Italy, Basilicata defies the common belief that Italy is all about pasta.
Grano, a wheat grain is a common starch product and is topped with a variety of sauces to create Basilicata’s characteristic dishes. Hearty bean soups and stews are popular, often studded with some of the region’s unique pasta shapes and varieties.

Given that Basilicata is primarily a mountainous region, you will see this geography reflected in the local cuisine. Cheeses and meats are the tasty by-products of mountain dwelling animals like sheep, goats, and pigs. Caciocavallo Silano, a regional cheese, is produced from an ancient breed of cows.

If you consider yourself a fearless eater, then diavolicchio on the menu won’t dissuade you.
But if super-spicy cuisine doesn't set well with you, then make sure to ask your waiter to omit this intense chili pepper that is a popular addition to Basilicata cuisine.

And Italians love to honor their food with festivals and harvest celebrations. If you are in Basilicata during the month of October, celebrate autumn, Italian style.
The Chestnut Festival in Rapolia takes place on the weekend of October 8th and 9th. Later in the month the Feast of the Mountain celebrates traditional mountain-produced delicacies and fine food products in Castelsaraceno. This event is complete with mountain sports like hiking, climbing, and horseback riding.
The annual Feast of the Mountain takes place the last weekend in October.

When traveling to Basilicata, the easiest way to access the area is by flying directly into Bari airport. As public transport is not as widespread or reliable in this less touristy locale, rent a car to explore the region.

Magic lights at Matera - Credit - APT Basilicata

Magic lights at Matera.

Credit: APT Basilicata

Magic lights on the church bell tower of the cathedral  of Matera - Credit - APT Basilicata

Magic lights on the church bell tower of the cathedral of Matera.

Credit: APT Basilicata

River on the bottom of the fissure at Matera - Credit - APT Basilicata

River on the bottom of the fissure at Matera.

Credit: APT Basilicata

sassi - inner view - Credit - APT Basilicata

Sassi (inner view).

Credit: APT Basilicata

The Sassi of Matera - Apses - Credit - APT Basilicata

The Sassi of Matera - Apses.

Credit: APT Basilicata

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