Touring the Lucanian Villages of Basilicata
The Basilicata region is crossed by the Pollino mountain range (which extends up to Calabria), here there is a magnificent Park where you can walk among the wild and unspoiled nature, observing animals and birds of prey, but you can also learn about local customs and traditions, and taste the authentic traditional recipes.
The Park was established in 1993 with the aim of preserving and protecting some among the rarest plants in the world, such as the Pinus heldreichii. The area is important for the presence of holm-oak, beech and maple trees,beautiful rivers such as the Sinni (this river is 94 kilometre long and it is one of the largest rivers in Basilicata region) and for the variegate local fauna: tourists have a chance to see wolves, wildcats, squirrels, boars and roe deer (the only surviving species from the family of deer). The most enchanting activity in the Park is walking through the paths that lead to the tops of Dolcedorme, Serra di Crispo and Gole del Raganello as well as the one leading to the Pollino Plain.
Sport lover can also practice mountain-bike, horse riding, canoeing and rafting in the Park. The Pollino Park still keeps its traditional habits and customs and gives to tourists the possibility to have a taste of Basilicata food and wine; every little town is unique and has distinctive features. The following townscan not be missed: Alvera, Castelluccio Inferiore, Castelluccio Superiore, Castelsaraceno, Castronuovo di Sant'Andrea, Carbone, Cersosimo, Chiaromonte, Episcopia, Fardella, Francavilla in Sinni, Latronico, Lauria, Noepoli, Rotonda, San Costantino Albanese, San Giorgio Lucano, San Paolo Albanese, San Severino Lucano, Senise, Teana, Terranova di Pollino, Valsinni, Viggianello. The Albanian minority is an example of an uncontaminated and secret culture within the protected area of the Park: when Ottomans conquered Albania, some Orthodox groups fled the country and settled down in Basilicata.
This is the case of San Paolo Albanese, a small Albanian village that was founded around the 16th century by a colony who fled from their homeland: tourists can admire the local arbereshe culture, its traditional costumes and handicraft as well as the reconstruction of traditional settings, that display the arbereshe way of life. The typical dresses that local people wears nowadays, on the occasion of weddings and celebrations are still wonderful: while women wear multicoloured clothes, enriched by ribbons and embroideries, men prefer dark colours and hats with coloured hatband.
San Costantino Albanese was probably founded by Albanian and here the citizens still use both the greek ritual and the ritual in the language of origin. This village is famous both for the production of needleworks and stockings and for the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima della Stella; this church dates back to the 17th century and its frescoes are very well preserved. There are many ancient archaeological sites in this extraordinary area.
Rotonda is located in the centre of the Park, it is a medieval village with important monuments: the ruins of the Castle of Sanseverino-Bisignano, that dates back to the 15th century; the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Consolazione, that goes back to the 16th century and has an impressive works on marble ; the old Cathedral with precious frescoes and plastered decorations; the Amato Palace, with its historical garden, large halls, fireplaces carved in stone and a basement with ancient olive presses.
Every year on June the 13th, Rotonda hosts the celebrations performed in honour of Saint Anthony from Padua: the traditional fir-tree festival.According to the tradition, Saint Anthony stopped in Rotonda near a fir tree for a rest. Some years later, in the same place, a shepherd who had fallen into a precipice, has recovered by a miracle. From this moment people started to celebrate Saint Anthony by carrying out celebratory activities and religious rituals on this mountain.
Latronico is a small and enchanting village in the Park, that has three wonderful churches: the Church of Saint Egidio, the Church of Saint Michael and the Church of Saint Nicola. This village is well known for the local stone that is extracted from the Alpi Mountain and manufactured according to the traditional local procedure: this is a white alabaster with grey and blue veins, the so-called “Marble from Latronico”.
Calvera is a small village with a particularly interesting Cathedral, that displays paintings date back to the17th and 18th centuries. Interesting is also the visit to the nearby spring of sulphurous water, located in the district “Vallina”.
Castelluccio Inferiore and Superiore are two other small villages of the Pollino Park, in Castelluccio Inferiore you can not miss the Church of Annunziata, with its bell tower covered in multicoloured ceramic tiles, that resembles a Byzantine architecture from the 17th century, while Castelluccio Superiore is famous for its abundant archaeological finds and ruins.
Pinus heldreichii is quite widespread both in Castelsaraceno and on the west side of the Alpi Mountain.
The Murge are very interesting too: these are blocks of rocks hang over the village on whose surface are still admirable the early examples of houses; these houses were in a strategic position, inhabitants could monitor the situation all around and could defend themselves from any invasions.The country of Viaggianello encompasses many churches and chapels as well as the ruins of a Medieval Castle, located in Sanseverino Bisignano, where lived Frederick II. In this area there is also the Plain of Ruggio and the Belvedere: a karst plateau covered in green grasslands and surrounded by mountains and woods.
Episcopia is a small village rich of monuments, that date back to Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque period; moreover, this village has a medieval fortress dates back to the 14th century.
Finally, San Severino Lucano is located at 1500 meters above the sea level, in the heart of the Park. In this area, many centuries ago, was built the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Pollino: a destinations for pilgrims deeply rooted into the heart of the local people.
In the area of the Park there are also a famous springs of sulphurous and magnesian water “The Calda”. Since ancient times well known for them curative power and now trasformed into a modern thermal centre, the Terme Lucane, that are provided with a curative, a wellness and a cosmetic area.
In the park are organized day trips with experienced guides and hiking for several days, as well as educational activities and environmental programs. Before start a visit or hike in the park you should read up about the route to follow, in addition to carrying the proper equipment, as a backpack, binoculars and camera.