About Basilicata

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Basilicata, also know by its historic name, Lucania, is situated in the ‘Mezzogiorno’, an area in the south of Italy renowned for its stress-free lifestyle, guaranteed sunshine, deliciously fresh food and excellent wine. Basilicata covers an area of 9,995 square kilometres but has a population of only 600,000 making it one of the least populated areas of Italy. Campania and Naples lie to the north west, Puglia to the north east and Calabria to the south. There are two provinces: Potenza and Matera.

The capital of Basilicata is Potenza which is located in the northwest of the region. The other major town of Matera is well known as the site of the ‘Sassi’ cave dwellings, made famous by Carlo Levi in his book ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’. In Levi’s time, the people in Aliano lived in abject poverty, many suffering from a host of crippling diseases including malaria. But since then, a lot of money has been invested in the region. The environment is clean, the houses are all well appointed, the shops plentiful and well stocked, and the infrastructure superior to many other parts of Italy. The town of Maratea on the Tyrrhenian side of Basilicata is a popular, upmarket holiday destination for many Italians.

The Landscape

The region is largely unspoiled and shepherds still stand at the roadside all day long, watching their flocks in the sunshine, while herds of goats and long-horned cattle roam idly down the country roads, sometimes only accompanied by dogs. It is an area where local culture and traditions have remained unchanged over centuries and where the people are intensely proud of their history and independence. It is easy to imagine that any change would be fiercely resisted.

The Basilicata countryside is very rich in natural beauty, and is surrounded by three National Parks: The Cilento, the Pollino and the Sila. These parks contain vast areas of unspoiled forest and spectacular views across the mountains where wolves, eagles and wild cats are plentiful. There are facilities for white water rafting, horse riding and trekking and a ski slope on Mount Sirino which is open during the winter months. The region lies between two coasts, the Ionian side of the Basilicata coast is to the east, which is largely flat and uninteresting, and the Tyrrhenian side of the Basilicata coast is to the west, and is extremely beautiful even by Italian standards. It is here that the upmarket resort of Maratea attracts large numbers of wealthy Italian tourists in the summer. The whole area is full of restaurants and Agriturismo’s, offering delicious local food and wine at ridiculously low prices as well as a comfortable bed for the night.

Languages spokenItalian and other local dialects
Currency usedEuro
Area (km2)9,992

Culture and history of Basilicata

Archeological findings show that the areas of the rivers were inhabited since Paleolithic times. In the 13th century BC the Lyki (probably at the origin of the name Lucani), coming from the Danube area, settled in the region and in the following century were greatly enriched culturally by the the Greeks, who colonized the region in the 8th century BC, who founded at the mouths of the largest rivers the cities of Metaponto, Heraclea, Posidonia.

The Lucani established a strong military state and fought against the inhabitants of Apulia for long centuries. After being allied to the Romans, they sided with Hannibal in the Punic wars. Under the Empire the region was called Bruttium, then between 1932 and 1945 was renamed Lucania, to become finally “Basilicata” under the Republic.

The feudal model and the condition of acute isolation has unfortunately remained unchanged for centuries, with an economy based on non-intensive agriculture, open fields, typical of mountain areas, and pastures linked to transhumance.

History: the Modern Age

With the unification of Italy the poor, backward economy of the Basilicata showed no signs of change, but in some ways got worse. The unity of Italy with the opening of trade barriers favored the most industrialized regions of the North, and led to economic impoverishment of the already weak productive activities of the South. Backwardness became underdevelopment: the liberal and conservative politics implemented a fiscal drain that gave the South the role of consumer of what Northern industry produced.

The “silent revolution” of emigration reduced the already small communities, keeping the economy poor and backward, and depriving domestic industry of any value. The situation did not change in the fascist era, since the political vision of fascism wanted an agricultural south (maintaining the territory in the hands of large land-owners) and an industrial north (with a wealthy bourgeoisie assisted by the State).

After the Second World War the birth of the Republican State and the social struggles for the land led to a different political context with important new policies in various areas, such as:

Environmental: hydrogeological works on the river beds, reforestation of hills and mountains; elimination of malaria in the plains; irrigation networks
Socio-economic: land reform, retraining of agricultural labourers, higher levels of education

Urban planning: setting up industrial hubs especially in the chemical industry.
The emergence of new socio-economic realities started to reverse the age-old subordination of the region, pursuing a territorial design based on “development lines”: to equip the region with a longitudinal infrastructure, following the valleys of five rivers from the more developed coast into the inner mountains.

The challenge was to create a new urban structure in the valleys able to stand the pace of the “post-industrial” era in a partly still feudal economic framework. The State Road Basentana was built, connecting Potenza and the Salerno-Reggio Calabria to Metaponto and to State road 106 Taranto- Sibari, and along the new roads a modern industrial area especially in the chemical sector started to develop. This new situation, however, has further marginalized the small communities of inner Basilicata.