The Primeval Beauty of Basilicata

July 29, 2015 / Places

Ed.’s note – We published a number of great notes by Valerie when she lived in La Marche, and are very happy now to be publishing new notes of hers from Basilicata, where she runs My Bella Basilicata, (Basilicata trip planning services and genealogy research). Grazie 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. 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.

Our first trip south was to explore my family heritage. Several trips and many wonderful, welcoming experiences tied up our heart-strings with a bow.

looking down wide - Copy

The more we explored Basilicata the more we were smitten. The natural beauty and the genuine warmth of the people completely won us over. There are only two cities – Potenza, the regional capital, and Matera, a splendid ancient place that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably the oldest city in Europe. The rest of the region is comprised of relatively small towns, stubbornly clinging to hilltops and keeping their traditions alive.

Websassi from caves

Basilicata dips two toes into two seas, but overall the landscape is rocky and rugged, even primitive. It has a unique and raw beauty. There are wavy wheat fields, rolling hills punctuated with olive groves and grape vines, and Colorado-like mountains ribboned with rivers and sliced with gorges. Time-worn villages cling to ridges and hilltops. 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.


Valerie Schneider

by Valerie Fortney- Schneider

Through her company My Bella Basilicata Valerie uses her tourism industry experience to offer travel planning and on-site genealogy research in the Basilicata region. She is a freelance writer with magazine and website articles to her credit, adores cappuccino, and is an enthusiastic cook.

Valerie Fortney-Schneider

16 Responses to “The Primeval Beauty of Basilicata”

  1. Anne Robichaud

    Valerie, Basilicata as “poverty-stricken” or “backwards.” ..all to change with the wondrous victory of Matera as European Cultural Center 2019 – with victory announced in Jan , 2015 (if I remember correctly)
    Complimentoni!….and get ready for the tourists…

  2. Francesco Paolo

    Surprised that the “sassi” in Matera was not mentioned along with “Christ Stopped at Eboli” by Levi which is about Basilicata.

  3. Gian Banchero

    I want to say shhhhhh being how many once peaceful unknown seaside villages I’ve seen overrun by tourists and hi-end stores that have more than less destroyed the original character that tourists found so intriguing in the first place. What I remember of Basilicata in its primeval beauty is the silence, the generosity of the people and that it belonged to another time, it hasn’t been Tuscanized! The Mezzogiorno and Sicily are regions that sing of another time, thankfully!

  4. Lina Falcone

    It’s a great seaside village. Grazie mille for your article. I was there years ago.

  5. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Thank you for the overview… much to see ….don’t miss the opening to the western shore Maratea…….another gem of Basilicata

  6. Victoria De Maio

    Grazie, Valerie,
    I had the pleasure of visiting Matera in June and primeval beauty is definitely accurate! And so is the description of the land and people – genuine and very warm.
    To Gian’s point, one young man who grew up in Matera was dubious about all of the attention and “progress” coming to Matera. It’s people who love it, like yourself, who will help the growth to be beneficial to all…
    In the just two years I’ve been taking small groups to Puglia, I’m already seeing the impact of its growing “fame” as the “in place” to go in Italy.
    Let’s hope that the Mezzogiorno holds on to its unique character.

  7. Nicholas Venice

    My father was born in Cirigilano Basillicata and came to America in 1903 ,we have ben there several times it is a beutiful village with many festivals.

  8. Carolyn Bellanti

    When we studied Italian in Bologna, we were shown a wonderful film (in Italian with Italian subtitles) called BASILICATA, COAST TO COAST. Does anyone know if this delightful film was ever brought to the U.S.?

  9. Gianna Janet Carr

    Grazie tantissimi per questa bellissimo articolo!!!

  10. Ginny Siggia

    I have been searching for photos from which to paint a composite hill town in a mural. It will be a simple mural because I haven’t the skill to replicate anything complicated, and less will be more in this case anyway. You will not be surprised that I was drawn to photo after photo of Matera. In the end, I decided to use my own photos from Scheggino, much smaller than Matera but rich in detail. Having captured every stone, blade of grass, and trout in the Nera, I lacked nothing in the way of starting material. Just plunk me down in Italy, anywhere, and I will be happy.

  11. Valerie Schneider

    Notes and Maratea, Carlo Levi, and others will come. But this time I wanted to focous on the beauty of the landscapes and smaller towns, which is really what make Basilicata so special! Grazie da cuore for all the sweet comments!

  12. Bob Conklin

    Some recommended reading: Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levy, a memoir of his years spent as a political exile for his outspoken anti-fascism in the 1930s. Torregreca, by Ann Cornelisen, memoir of an American woman who ran a nursery for the poverty-stricken peasant field workers in the 1950s. Seasons in Basilicata, by David Yeadon. Memoir by a Brit of his time living in Aliano, the remote village where Carlo Levy was exiled, inspired by his reading of Christ Stopped at Eboli. I loved my time in Basilicata, even though it was only three weeks. Fascinating region, friendly people, interesting cuisine (cucina). Matera is perhaps the most fascinating city I’ve ever visited.

  13. Patrizia

    No sooner is something proclaimed to be “unspoiled” than it gets spoiled. There is a riparian canyon in Arizona that has a lottery system to regulate the number of visitors into the ecologically sensitive area. Perhaps Basilicata could be protected that way.


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