Basilicata is one of the most remote and least visited parts of Italy. Although one of Italy’s smallest provinces, it can boast a distinctive local cooking style and some excellent little-known wines. It is the recent emergence of Matera as an intriguingly offbeat destination that is putting Basilicata on the map. Continuously inhabited for more than 9,000 years, Matera is two different towns: the modern one, where most of its inhabitants live today, and the old town, which was originally a troglodyte settlement bored into the limestone of a steep bluff. Several of the abandoned cave dwellings have now been turned into hotels.
Bread, Cheese and Olive Oil
Basilicata is widely considered to have the best bread in Italy, because it is made with flour produced from local heirloom grain. The province also produces excellent olive oil, cheeses — caciocavallo Podolico made from the milk of Podolico cattle is the star — and pastas. Sun-dried red peppers grown near Senise and known as cruschi are a regular condiment. We ate notably well at La Luna Rossa (Via Marconi 18, Terranova di Pollino), chef Federico Valicenti’s country auberge, 70 miles south of Matera. Look for dishes such as cavatelli with a walnut sauce and black truffles, grilled lamb steak with herbs on cicorietta (wild chicory) with onions, and beef fillet with chestnut honey, mint and Aglianico wine. Tel. (39) 0973-93254.
Wines produced from Aglianico grapes, the region’s best-known variety, grown at the base of Vulture volcano in northwest Basilicata are elegant but robust compared with other southern Italian reds due to the richness of volcanic soil and altitude of the vineyards. Elena Fucci offers tours of her vineyards and cellars, along with a tasting and light lunch (advance booking required).
Matera's Favorite Guide
The most rewarding way to visit Matera is to book a half-day tour with Francesco Foschino, a highly sought-after guide who is a proud native of the city. Tel. (39) 347-573-6470.