The Province of Potenza, one of the two provinces of the Basilicata Region, comprises 100 municipalities, among which the city of Potenza, Italy's highest-altitude Regional Capital (2,687 ft). Just a few miles of the Province actually touch the Tyrrhenian Sea, while the rest of it is bordered by the Region of Campania on the west (Provinces of Salerno and Avellino), Apulia in the north (Provinces of Foggia, Barletta-Andria-Trani and Bari), the Province of Matera in the east, and Calabria in the south (Province of Cosenza).
More extensive than Matera province, Potenza is characterized by a multiplicity of environments. Indeed, many towns are of a more industrial character - for instance, San Nicola di Melfi - yet other, more natural zones abound, such as Lake Monticchio and the artificial lakes of Monte Cotugno, Pertusillo, Acerenza and Rendina.
The coast of Maratea deserves a visit, as it is the Province's only coastal zone, as do the central area of the Lucanian Forest, the extensive National Park of Pollino, and the wildlife reserves of Lake Pantano di Pignola (managed by WWF) and Abetina.
Although Potenza was mostly rebuilt after having being destroyed by several earthquakes in its history (the last one was in 1980), the city still bears many traces from ancient times. The Cathedral, built in the 12th Century and renovated during the Neoclassical age, houses interesting works of art, while the Torre Guevara is evidence of the Medieval castle. The Roman Villa of Malvaccaro, rather, is characterized by beautiful mosaics, and the Edicola of San Gerardo, a minuscule temple, was built in the 19th Century to exhibit the revered Saint's statue. Then, the National Archaeological Museum and the Provincial Archaeological Museum boast numerous finds that narrates the city's history, as does the Archivio di Stato, with documents dating back to the 14th Century.
The Romanesque Church of San Michele Arcangelo, constructed in the 12th Century in the Romanesque, is home to many important works of art: the Madonna del Carmine and the Madonna of the Rosary and the Fifteen Mysteries. At the same time, the 12th-Century Church of Santa Maria del Sepolcro (12th Century) displays a lovely marble bas-relief of the Madonna with Child and Angels.
Quite close to Potenza, it's worth paying a visit to the ancient villages of Tolve and Vaglio Basilicata, with a native residential area and one of the most ancient sanctuaries of the region (Sanctuary of the Mephitis Goddess). In the northeastern area of Potenza are many villages surrounded by nature, by green and deep valleys or by forests of turkey oaks, chestnut trees, beech trees and fir trees. Muro Lucano is renowned for its Castle, its Cathedral and the National Archaeological Museum.
In the south of Potenza, visit the Medieval Borgo of Brienza, Picerno and Vietri di Potenza. In the southeastern area of the Province, see the Lucanian Dolomites, heart of the Regional Natural Park bearing the same name, along with the beautiful villages of Brindisi di Montagna, Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa, the highest-altitude municipality of the Basilicata Region (3,570 ft).
In the southern part of the Province Monte Vulture stands; it is an extinct volcano completely covered with forests. Two castles are its neighbors: Castel Lagopesole in the Comune of Avigliano, built by Frederick II of Swabia in 1242, atop the ancient ruins of a previous construction. The complex reveals an exceptional interior structure that includes a church; and Castello di Melfi, also erected by Frederick II over another previous fortification, in the heart of the suggestive Medieval village bearing the same name.
Not to miss, as well, the Castle of Venosa, renowned because Horace, the Latin poet, was born here. Besides the Castle, housing the National Archaeological Museum, it's worth to pay a visit to the Cathedral, the Trinity Abbey and the Archaeological Park, an extensive excavation area with ruins of a thermal baths complex, a domus, a residential and an episcopal compound, an unfinished church and an amphitheatre.
Furthermore, nearby to Venosa one shouldn't miss the Christian and Jewish catacombs. And, in the same area, the Cathedral of Acerenza.
Still in this province, close to the Tyrrhenian coast, the Archaeological Area of Grumentum, an ancient Roman city built in the 3rd century BC of which some ruins remain: the theatre, the italic little temple, the domus with some mosaics, the area of the Forum with the Capitolium, the Augusteum, the Basilica and the amphitheatre. Nearby, the National Museum of Alta Val D'Agri. The villages of Moliterno, Marsico Nuovo, Viggiano, Rivello and Lagonegro are worth to be mentioned, too.
Finally, right on the Tyrrhenian coast, the wonderful city of Maratea, with its historic center and its very narrow streets dating back to its medieval foundation. Maratea is also known as the “city of the 44 churches” for its many religious buildings. Among them: the Church of the Annunziata, the Church of the Immacolata, and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Close to the centre of the town, on San Biagio Mountain, one reaches the ruins of ancient Maratea, the Sanctuary of San Biagio and the Statue of the Redeemer.
The Province of Potenza offers water lovers 18.6 miles of coast lined by a transparent sea, secluded beaches, green areas alternating with the rocks and wonderful landscapes. Potenza offers many possibilities for underwater sports: diving, underwater photography and fishing, boat trips, water-skiing, canoeing and windsurfing.
For speleologists, the northern coast of Maratea is full of caves (grottoes), such as the Grotta del Sogno, Grotta del Dragone, Grotta dei Monacelli and the Grotta di Marina di Maratea.
For hiking and trekking lovers, the Province's localities can be enjoyed year-round, including the Lucanian Dolomites and the Serra Dolcedorme. Horse stables and agritourism structures offer experiences for all horseback riding levels.
Meanwhile, ski resorts, such as the territory near La Sellata Pass, are quite near Potenza. Moreover, the Natural Reserve of Lake Pantano di Pignola is an authentic paradise for birdwatchers: from wooden huts that sprinkle the park, it is possible to observe buzzards, eurasian coots, kites, hawks, herons, cormorants and, during spring and summer, little grebes, the symbol of the reserve.
The Rural Historical-Environmental Park of Basilicata, (in the Grancia Forest) offers special itineraries for learning about local rural life.
The gastronomic flavors typical to Basilicata are rather robust, due to the wide use of (peperoncino) chili pepper and aromatic herbs. The foundation of the local cuisine is pork: locals in Basilicata are expert producers of ham, sausages, capocollo (salame made with pork neck) and pancetta. Typical dishes include cotechinata, fried pork, peperonata with pork, or sanguinaccio.
Sheep and lamb are also very common, while among the fish dishes are fish soup, eel, trout and baked codfish. Nonetheless, the main dish is always the first course, which means just about every type of handmade pasta: orecchiette, cavatelli, strozzapreti, strascinate and the typical fusilli with broad beans.
But what is Italian cuisine without chese? Think soft cheese, provola, ricotta and caciocavallo, which owes its name to the aging method used: the cheese is draped in twos along a horizontal line. Not to be left out is the local pecorino from Moliterno.
The three most famous wines from Basilicata are the red Aglianico D.O.C., the white and sparkling Moscato, and the dessert wine Malvasia.