Journey to the small, rocky region in the heart of the Italian south, to a land where ancient pagan rites live alongside those of the Catholic Church, world-class wine washes down edible hyacinth bulbs, zip-lines parallel old mule trails, and the air is infused with the ideals of Roman poets and brigands. Best known for the evocative cave dwellings of Matera, Basilicata packs an incredible diversity into the unassuming instep of the Italian boot. To discover what makes this region tick, the author traverses Mediterranean beaches and Alpine forests, visits medieval castles and modest homes, attends folkloric festivals and samples earthy local cuisine, uncovering Basilicata past and present, from pre-Greek to the story of emigration that continues today.
Basilicata: Authentic Italy goes off Italy’s beaten tourist path and digs deep into this lesser-known Southern Italian region. With heart and humor, Karen Haid sets out to explore this fascinating land that maintains an old-world charm and authenticity into the 21st century. Highlights include a mountain community’s ritualistic Marriage of Trees, an international celebration of fantastical carnival masks, the capital city’s colorful Parade of the Turks, a relaxing sojourn at a classic Italian spa facility, visits to wineries, and of course, the unbridled consumption of countless culinary delicacies. Who knew that a sweet, dried pepper could bring such crunchy delight?
Basilicata: Authentic Italy examines historical context when coming upon the region’s challenges. How could such a noble land, the birthplace of the likes of Horace and final resting place of Pythagoras become the 20th century’s back and beyond, a place where the Fascists exiled political prisoners? What motivated the likes of Carmine Crocco, Basilicata’s most famous brigand-common criminality or social revolt against the devastating consequences of Italian Unification? At times, progress has seemingly passed the region by, while at others, has wreaked havoc, such as in the case of the ghost town of Craco and big oil in Viggiano. Religion has played its part, as well, and the author encounters symbols from ancient burial objects in numerous archeological museums to the Jewish catacombs of Venosa to the extraordinary Early Christian cave paintings in the Crypt of the Original Sin to Maratea’s Christ statue that rivals Rio’s.
All along the way, the author’s experience is enriched by the local people, and perhaps their story resounds the loudest in Matera, a place where personal integrity, cultural strength and an incredible collective resilience were brought into force to overcome past difficulty. Once considered a national shame, the Sassi di Matera are today hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the footsteps of international tourists in-the-know echo along its ancient stone streets. Basilicata: Authentic Italy reflects on the region past and present, as well as considers the future of a land and its people with so much to offer and an even greater potential yet to be realized. Basilicata is a corner of Italy where that elusive authentic experience sought out by today’s traveler can be found. The author does so and shares the joys and challenges of the experience.