Four reasons to visit Basilicata in southern Italy

Castelmezzano, Basilicata, Italy
Castelmezzano, Basilicata, Italy

This mountainous Italian region is home to incredible natural and historical attractions

Sitting between Calabria, Campania, and Puglia, the off-the-beaten-path region of Basilicata makes up the ‘instep’ of Italy’s ‘boot.’ Its mountainous geography contrasts with Ionian and Tyrrhenian coastlines that are dotted with white-sanded beaches, creating dynamic landscapes that are ripe for exploring. It’s also home to Italy’s oldest city, Matera, which is rich in culture and fascinating attractions. We look at four reasons to visit.

Ancient villages with a view

Basilicata’s charm is evident in its historic hilltop villages, which command striking views of the surrounding landscapes. The most famed is Matera, one of Italy’s oldest cities and among the oldest in the world. Its UNESCO World Heritage-listed sassi, or stone cave dwellings, are thought to have originated as far back as 7000 BC. Other villages worth exploring include Castelmezzano, which sits quaintly in a valley between two mountains. For an adventurous and scenic experience, the Volo dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angel) zipline — one of the world’s longest and highest — takes visitors between Castelmezzano and the beautiful town of Pietrapertosa. In Tursi, visitors can meander through narrow streets to take in medieval architecture and the Cathedral of San Nicola, dating to the 12th century.

Up-and-coming wine scene

Oenophiles might like to explore Basilicata’s burgeoning wine scene. The wine-growing region in the northeast is one of the smallest in Italy and has some of the most elevated vineyards in Europe. Wines are defined by indigenous grapes grown in volcanic-rich soils, due to the vines’ placement around Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano. Those who enjoy rich, full-bodied reds such as a Shiraz will likely enjoy trying wines made with the local Aglianico grape.

Great outdoors

Basilicata’s contrasting landscapes lend to immersive outdoor experiences. Swim in the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea and then unwind on the beaches of Acquafredda. Don your hiking boots and take to trails in the vast expanse of Pollino National Park — the largest in Italy. For those who like to get out on the water, canoeing, and kayaking are available to discover the coastline with its hidden bays and caves accessible only by boat.

Exploring on two wheels

With a 114-kilometre cycle route connecting Matera with the jagged pinnacles of the Lucanian Dolomites, Basilicata’s stunning landscapes are ripe for exploring by bicycle — particularly those cyclists who enjoy a challenge. An Italian Green Road Award was awarded to the region in 2021 for the route that crosses nature reserves and hilltop villages, with attractions along the way such as the region of Vulture Melfese; the fascinating archaeological remains of Murgia Materana National Park; the regional capital of Potenza; the vast national park of Val D’Agri; and the church-filled coastal town of Maratea, known as ‘the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian.’

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