Cradled in the rocks among the jutting peaks of the Dolomiti Lucane, Castelmezzano leaves you breathless. The first glimpse of this stone town charms and beckons. At night it’s downright alluring with a hazy glow and floodlit rocks; it looks like a life-size nativity scene. Despite its small size – under 1000 inhabitants – it draws thousands of visitors every summer for its high-flying zip line, the Volo dell’Angelo.
The very sight of Castelmezzano exudes mystery and antiquity. The town was a Norman stronghold named “middle castle” because it was between the two castle fortresses of Pietrapertosa and Brindisi Montagna. Founded by folks who were fleeing Saracen raids down the valley, they couldn’t have chosen a more isolated spot to settle among the crags and clefts of the rocks. It remained in a world almost of its own until after WWII when the road was built. Before that, mule paths connected it to other towns.
Castelmezzano strings along the mountain following the natural curve the landscape, with archways, steps and lanes to explore. It’s very charming. Walk all the way along and then uphill toward the crest where you can see the old footholds in the rock that once led to a look-out point. From the ridge you can look east and on a clear day see the Ionian Sea.
This is a hiker’s paradise, with trails and country lanes that take in sweeping landcapes in all directions. Enjoy lunch at one of the agriturismi or a trattoria in town to taste the country fare that epitomizes Italian ingenuity in using seasonable produce. Stay until the sun sets and the lights come on, a magical sight. You’ll see why Castelmezzano is one of the “borghi piu’ belli d’Italia” (prettiest villages in Italy).