Basilicata is a region to be discovered! The Lucanian territory includes places to get to know and visit for its typical products, but also for art and crafts. It is also a land of culture and illustrious men who can offer paths of history and traditions.
From Brienza to the colorful Melandro Valley
A great attraction is also represented by the system of natural parks, from that of the Pollino in Gallipoli-Cognato, up to the latest addition to the Val d’Agri – Lagogrenese – Appennino Lucano. The mountainous reliefs in Basilicata have an unexpected alpine aspect in Southern Italy and forests, solemn plateaus, boundless coniferous and beech forests together with lakes and waterways offer surprisingly Nordic charm landscapes.
But Basilicata also holds treasures of art and culture that testify to how it has always been a crossroads of peoples. A strategic point for discovering the artistic and natural treasures of Basilicata is Brienza, a town dominated by the Caracciolo Castle which at first sight could be confusing…
In fact, the landscape is misleading and you might think you are in Scotland! Instead, you are in the presence of the medieval fortress of Brienza which stands out over the oldest part of the town made up of small gray limestone houses built one on top of the other and narrow in the liquid embrace of the Pergola and Fiumicello streams.
To visit the village strategic location is the refined B&B La Voce del Fiume where we were guests of the attentive and caring landlady of Rocchina Adobbato and about which we talk to you in a dedicated post.
The structure is located at the foot of the castle and a stone’s throw from Piazza del Sedile, a sort of hinge between the ancient part, the one abandoned after the damage caused by earthquakes and neglect, and the more modern one, which with its severe and elegant buildings does not betray the noble origin of the village.
The devastating earthquakes of 1857 and 1980 made most of the walls of ancient Burgentia unsafe, which can only be visited with a guide: by appointment you can wander among the ancient houses, arches, churches and narrow streets in ascent leading to the castle in the shape of a large ship.
Our visit instead developed from Piazza del Sedile towards the convent of the Observant Friars Minor which currently houses the Town Hall.
An alienating effect is also that of the tree-lined square, nestled between the massive Palazzo Falce on one side and the church of the Madonna del Carmine with the balcony overlooking the village and the Pergola river on the other. It reminded us of a small corner of Provence, such as Moustiers Sainte-Marie, a village with pastel-colored houses and flowered balconies nestled under a mountain and cut in two by the Rioul stream, or Manosque, the town of the writer Jean Giono who described thus: “with the roofs arranged one on top of the other like the plates of an armature”.
The pleasant walk continues in via Mario Pagano, named after the most illustrious son of Brienza, author of important works of a legal nature. The wide street, flanked by the superb palaces of the Paladini, Perrelli, Altavista, Carbone, Paternoster, De Rosa families, climbs through two stone ramps in Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia on which stands the statue about two and a half meters high which represents Francesco Mario Pagano, martyr of the Neapolitan Republic.
In the Convent of the Frati Minori Osservanti dating back to 1571, currently the municipal building, the cloister which has an important cycle of frescoes by Leonardo Giampietro from 1741 of the Michelangelo school is worth visiting.
From Brienza you can easily reach the murals villages in the valley considered the most painted in Italy, that of Melandro which includes the three villages of Satriano di Lucania, Sant’Angelo alle Fratte and Savoia di Lucania.
Satriano already famous for its Carnival, that of the tree men called Rumit who wander the streets of the town knocking on doors and leaving a good omen in exchange for a gift, is today a destination for tourists who come here in Basilicata from all over Europe to admire the murals on the facades of the village.
Made by different artists, they cover the walls of the houses in the center and the main street of the village and deal with different thematic strands: from the cult of the saints to the colors of the valley, from biodiversity and archeology to the legend of Abbamonte’s snot, from ancient crafts to scenes from the life of Pietrafesa, the famous painter who was born in the town.
In the nearby town of Sant’Angelo Le Fratte the works tell of the link of these places with the figure of Bishop Juan Caramuel, on an apostolic mission here from 1657 to 1672, while in Savoia di Lucania they are divided between the story of San Rocco, patron saint of village, and that of the anarchist cook Giovanni Passannante, the bomber of Umberto I who was born here and who was the cause of the change of the town’s name from Salvia to Savoia.
In fact, it happened that on November 17, 1878, Passannante attacked the king wounding him in the arm and the Savoia to pardon the town of which he was originally from and remedy the shame decided that it should no longer be called Salvia, as it had been until then, but Savoia di Lucania. Do not miss a tour in the Bosco Luceto around the village where the Tuorno stream flows, one of the tributaries of the Melandro river, which gives rise to ten waterfalls: unfortunately the signs leave something to be desired and for mobile phones there is no line so we didn’t find any!
But it is still worthwhile to reach this naturalistic area of considerable interest which has centuries-old Turkey oaks, mineral water springs, a sulfur spring, small lakes and an old water mill surrounded by greenery.
It’s surprising how many stories there are in this Italy considered to be less than wrong! It’s surprising how Basilicata, such a small region, has such a rich and varied gastronomic heritage.
We in Marsico Nuovo at the Al Pergolato restaurant (Contrada Calabritto 3) we’ve had our fill of cruschi peppers, a symbolic specialty of this region, but also of cod which together with salted sardines has a prominent place in Lucanian traditions thanks above all to the ease conservation.
And we certainly did not hold back in front of the platter of local cold cuts and cheeses proposed by Domenico in his restaurant La Cantina (via Cupa) in Sant’Angelo Le Fratte at the foot of the imposing and rocky fracture of the Carpineto mountain. Then followed by a taste of fusilli, handmade pasta with durum wheat flour, and ricotta ravioli topped with a fragrant porcini sauce. And how to say no to podolica meat served steaming on the table on soapstone together with a plate of crispy fried potatoes?