Basilicata is one of the most remote and least visited parts of Italy, but during a recent road trip, we discovered a fascinating and stunningly beautiful region that will remain long in the memory. The sere southern Italian landscape is marked by dramatic cocoa-colored ravines, rolling fields of golden wheat and white villages perched on hilltops that look like low clouds from afar.
Although one of Italy’s smallest regions, Basilicata can boast a sandy coastline on the Ionian Sea, a distinctive cooking style and some excellent little-known wines. Its true gem is the town of Matera. Continuously inhabited for more than 9,000 years, Matera has both a modern town, where most of its inhabitants live today, and an old town, which was originally a troglodyte settlement, with caves bored into the soft vanilla-colored limestone of a bluff.
It is the recent emergence of Matera as an intriguingly offbeat destination that has put Basilicata on the map. And now is the time to go, since its eerie beauty and timeless atmosphere will doubtless be discovered by many more travelers when the city becomes one of Europe’s two Capitals of Culture in 2019 (the other is Plovdiv in Bulgaria).