Gita Italiana 2010: At Home in Basilicata – The Forgotten Region

Next stop on the Gita Italiana is Calabria’s neighbor to the north, Basilicata, thanks to Valerie Schneider of 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree. Welcome Valerie!


When I tell people that I bought a house in Italy, the usual response is, “How fantastic! When I tell them it’s located in Basilicata, they get a blank look and say, “Where?”

Basilicata is possibly the least-known region in the peninsula. It is cuddled between Puglia, Calabria and Campania and is the most sparsely populated part of the country. Its ancient name is Lucania, and while it’s been renamed Basilicata, the inhabitants are still known as Lucani.

Little is written about the region, and what is published generally refers to it as “poverty-stricken” or “backwards.” Basilicata is misunderstood, underappreciated and overlooked.

© Valerie Schneider

© Valerie Schneider

Even among Italians it isn’t well-known.

Our first trip south was to explore my family heritage. We arrived in a remote mountain village expecting to find squalor based on the only English-language descriptions I could find at the time, but met instead with a well-kept town that clung desperately to its rocky peak. We meandered the insanely-steep streets and were greeted with smiles and stares. We discovered I still had familial ties there.

Those first forays into the Motherland garner us outright stares. Let’s face it, a little town of 2,000 souls that is perched on top of a mountainside at 1,000 meters surrounded by rural farms and sheep in southern Italy does not draw many Italian tourists, much less foreigners. We quickly came to realize that behind their curious smiles was a real desire to assist and a strong pride in their towns and traditions. Several trips and many wonderful, welcoming experiences tied up our heart-strings with a bow.

The more we explored Basilicata the more we were smitten. The natural beauty and the genuine warmth of the people completely won us over.

© Valerie Schneider

© Valerie Schneider

While she dips two toes into two seas, Basilicata does not embody the typical Mediterranean image one may have of Italy. The landscape is rocky and rugged, even primitive. It has a unique and raw beauty. From the plains of Puglia the earth turns wavy with billowing wheat. Then it ascends to rolling hills punctuated with olive groves and grape vines, where world-class wine is made from ancient Grecian grapes. Time-worn villages cling to ridges and hilltops. From there the region soars upwards into alpine mountains ribboned with rivers and sliced with gorges. In the high altitude the air is clear and millions of stars cast an amazing display. Butterflies dance in the sun, and eagles and falcons guard the skies. And the Lucani welcome visitors with curious glances and open smiles.

We knew we would always return to this fascinating, beautiful land, so it just made sense to buy a small place that we could call our own. Our little casa, at about 300-years old, has more time on it than our New World country.

Guidebooks call it poverty-stricken but we found there is a very rich culture there. They say it’s backwards, but we say it just clings to time-honored traditions. We love walking the medieval stone streets and feeling surrounded by hundreds of years of history and simplicity. Our neighbors have accepted us as ordinary villagers, we’ve made friends — we feel at home. And there is nothing backwards about that.

© Valerie Schneider

© Valerie Schneider


Valerie Schneider is a freelance writer and travel professional, a cappuccino addict, and a Lucana at heart.  She writes about off-the-beaten-path Italy on the Web site, Italy Panorama. You can read more of her adventures at her blog, 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree.


Grazie mille Valerie!

Be sure to come back for tomorrow’s gita to Assisi!

13 Beans of Wisdom to “Gita Italiana 2010: At Home in Basilicata – The Forgotten Region”
  1. Gil

    Another great and interesting writer. It sounds like they had a great time there!

    Definitely; Valerie’s is one of my favorite stops too 🙂

  2. 08.25.2010

    What a poetic description of Basilica. I have been truly inspired.

    Thanks Michelle for posting this wonderful blog.

    So glad you enjoyed…you’re also going to love Assisi tomorrow, I promise!

  3. 08.25.2010

    oops… two letters missing in Basilica…ta!

    Haha, normally I’d just fix it in the original comment and delete this one, but since your Comment Luv link came up in this one, I’ll leave both 😀

  4. 08.25.2010

    We had the pleasure of driving through Basilicata when we lived on the Amalfi Coast. I found it absolutely gorgeous! We stopped in Matera – the wonderful town of Sassi cave homes and visited Ripacandida, home of an Italian friend of ours. Thanks for bringing back those memories! There are several posts on our Italy blog (Feb 2007 archives). Here’s a link to one of them:

    Thanks for sharing Rosemary!

  5. 08.25.2010

    Thanks Michelle and Valerie, we are so lucky to live in this beautiful country.

    Agreed 😀

  6. All of a sudden I keep reading and hearing about Basilicata.

    There was a recent movie staring Giovanna Mezzogiorno about a road trip in Basilicata that did very well.

    I think it’s out on DVD (in Italy) now.

    Ooh will have to look for it; thanks!

  7. 08.25.2010

    I’m having such a wonderful time with these posts about new areas. This sounds beautiful, and actually quite up my alley. Thank you!

    So happy you’re enjoying, Jen!

  8. 08.25.2010

    Valerie, I’m so glad you’ll be back *home* again soon.
    Michelle, Wish I’d had time to participate in your *gita*…..summer has been so busy and crazy, but I’m really enjoying everyone’s posts.

    No worries, Carol…glad you’re enjoying 🙂

  9. 08.25.2010

    >>Basilicata is possibly the least-known region in the peninsula.<<


    Definitely another “secret” 😉

  10. 08.26.2010

    Maybe it’s a good thing guidebooks disparage Basilicata, it may help keep its charms from being abused…

    Don’t worry, I’ll keep the secret, although I am going to add the movie the Caribbean Ragazza mentioned to my Netflix queue!


    Haha, thanks for coming over, Tui 🙂

  11. don’t forget Matera, in Basilicata, it’s a most amazing place, where people still live in holes in a cliff.

    My italian relatives and friends always tell me when I discover a new place in their country “I’ve never been there” I know none of them have never been to Matera.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mimi 🙂

  12. 08.26.2010

    Grazie Valerie! It’s wonderful to have you out there writing about this place that guidebooks ignore. I loved spending a few dreamy days in Maratea a couple of years ago–it’s such a lovely seaside spot, just down from the Amalfi Coast…with lower prices and no traffic, gorgeous scenery, easy to get to by train from Rome, delicious, rich food–I look forward to returning.

    Thanks for following along, Susan!

  13. 08.26.2010

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! We are torn about keeping it a secret and letting people know its virtues, but in the end I love it and have to talk about it 😉

    I’d seen the trailers for the moving Basilicata Coast to Coast but haven’t seen the movie yet. Will have to look for the DVD.



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake