How do you fall in love? With so many good-looking people walking around Basilicata, the answer is self-evident: travel there, meet one of the beautiful people and fall in love. Yes, because the people I’ve met there are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside – so disarming and so warmly seductive. Ah, but then reality sets in. You awaken to the fact that you are indulging in the age-old Italian fantasy of amore. (If that’s the case, I think I’ll curl up on the sofa with a glass of fine Aglianico wine and watch La Dolce Vita!) Nonetheless, in Basilicata you will certainly fall in love with the inherent romance of this wonderful place – sweeping landscapes, picturesque mountaintop villages, delicious food, and lovely people. It’s a hidden gem that many visitors to Italy (and even some native Italians) don’t ever anticipate or consider.
Basilicata is a Southern Italian region wedged between Campania and Calabria to the west and Puglia to the east. Like Calabria, Basilicata has coastline on both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas. During the late 1800s through the early 1900s and beyond, tens of thousands of immigrants from Basilicata ventured abroad in search of new opportunities. Sadly, many descendants today have not retained any tangible connection to Basilicata. That’s why a genealogist like me specializing in Italian ancestry finds her way to Basilicata – to search for those lost family roots and reconnect Italian Americans to their origins.
Like many places in Southern Italy, Basilicata is charming, yet affectionately inefficient for those of us here for archival research. And that’s okay. In Basilicata, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell friends and colleagues, “arrivo” / “I’m arriving,” if you’re twenty minutes away. In some cases, appointment times are only approximations of the actual times that meetings take place. But it is also understood that things are arranged and scheduled always with the best intentions. And thus, after some routine logistical adjustments, our onsite genealogical research progresses as intended.
Now let’s not forget about the incredible food! A few months ago, one of my research associates and I spent a productive week tracing the ancestry of an ORIGINS ITALY client with roots in the mountainous area on the border of the Italian regions of Campania and Basilicata. The local culture is uniquely its own and the cuisine is out-of-this-world amazing. At the Agriturismo Ponte di Annibale in Ricigliano (SA), Italy, Giovanni Turturiello and his family serve local specialties and make you feel right at home. When you go there, try the ravioli with porcini mushrooms. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Warning: You cannot be on a diet and eat there, but it’s well worth it! (Full disclosure: Agriturismo Ponte di Annibale is located in Campania, a stone’s throw from the Basilicata border, and the food is representative of the area’s scrumptious, comforting cuisine.)
Potenza, the regional capital of Basilicata, is a must visit for any Italy enthusiast. It has all the essential elements: rich history, local culture, great food, and wonderful people. I was very surprised at how few foreigners were there. I thought, where is everyone? For some reason, they are not here visiting this enchanting and beautiful city! This is something I hope will change in the future.
The only real disappointment I have about Basilicata is that Potenza and the historical city of Matera are not efficiently linked via public transportation. Thus, you will probably need a rental car to take a day trip to see one of the rarest jewels of Italy. I must visit Matera in the future.
What else is there to say, but “Go there!” Basilicata is a place that you will visit for the first time and wish you had known about it sooner. If you have ancestry from Basilicata, it’s all the more reason to book your flight right now. The experience will change your life. So, go there! Travel to Basilicata and you will surely fall in love!
-Mary M. Tedesco, ORIGINS ITALY
(Pictured: Muro Lucano, Potenza, Basilicata, Italy. Photo © Mary Tedesco.)