Impoverished and wild – this describes the region between Apulien, the Bay of Tarent and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Rarely visited by tourists, it is among the most sparsely populated regions in Europe. This is partly due to the low rainfall. While the mountains along the western coast receive 2000 millimeters of rainfall per year, the conditions around Matera in the East are desert-like. Those unperturbed by the region's barrenness can discover a host of exciting things here.
Mountain village where time has stood still.
On the western edge of the Parco Gallipolli Cognato lies Castelmezzano, a mountain village, which is huddled against the imposing cliffs and where time seems to have come to a stand still. In the 6th and 5th century BC, Greek colonists founded the city of Maudoron. When the Saracens raided and plundered the coastal town 1500 years later, the displaced residents settled on the rock and formed todays Castelmezzano around 1,000 AD.
Abandoned mountain village in a moonscape
This medieval town is so striking that several movies have been filmed here. Craco stands in the moonscape of southern Basilikata. In 1991, landslides swept half of the town down into the valley. Afterwards, the World Monuments Fund added it to its list of endangered cultural monuments. Very few people live here nowadays.
Through the gorge of the rock churches
While Matera is becoming more and more famous, hardly anyone knows the gorge of Matera, where hunters, monks and shepherds have lived in rock caves since the Stone Age. The breathtaking hike leads along ancient paths through the gorge. Thereby, one passes Cristo la Selva, a cave church that only got a brick façade in the 18th century. The destination, however, is another rock church dedicated to St. Luke and located high above La Selva. (there and back: 13.1 kilometers, 3:45 hours, up and down: 340 meters)
Ancient cave town in Basilicata
Located in the southern region of Basilicata, Matera is the most outstanding example of an intact troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city has over 100 rock churches, a testimony to the Greek-Byzantine monastic civilizations that once ruled the region. It is the city of art and folklore, and is considered one of the most ancient continuously inhabited settlements in the world, dating as far back as the Palaeolithic period. For centuries, farmers lived here with their cattle until this was declared a national disgrace in the 1950s and the inhabitants were resettled in the surrounding slab silos. In the 1970s the already decaying caves were restored and became a tourist attraction. Matera is also a setting in Carlos Levi's novel “Christ came only as far as Eboli”. There the feast of the Madonna della Bruna on July 2nd is described, which even today lasts from dawn to the deepest night.
Greek city and residence of Pythagoras
From the eighth century BC, the overpopulated Greek cities began to establish colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. The new Greek settlements were called Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). One such Greek colony was Metapont in the Gulf of Taranto. According to legend, it should be founded by the builder of the Trojan Horse. There are only ruins left of the ancient Metapont. In the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Metaponto you can visit the finds from the time of Magna Graecia. The city's most famous citizen was the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who lived in Metapont in the 4th century BC.
Medieval fortified town in a spectacular location
The old town of Tursi is particularly intriguing due to its location on the vertical escarpment that once protected it during the Middle Ages. In fact, the history of the town began when residents from the neighboring town of Anglona sought refuge here from the pillaging Goths during the Migration Period. The Saracens later turned Tursi into a stronghold, which they called Rabatana, but then had to surrender to the Byzantines in around 900 AD. Tursi does not seem to have changed much since then.
Ride a zip line across a valley in the Dolomites
The towns of Pietrapertoa and Castelmezzano are among the most beautiful mountain villages in the Lucan Dolomites. Perched beneath massive cliffs on opposite sides of a valley, the towns are connected by two cables spanning hundreds of meters. These zip lines and allow you to soar over the valley like an eagle, combining a perfectly safe thrill with views of the rugged, impassable valley below. The zip line ride from Pietrapertosa to Castelmezzano covers a distance of 1,415 meters at speeds of up to 110 km/h. The return trip on the second cable is even more exciting. This so-called “Flight of the Angel” is a great addition to any tour of the Dolomites.