The Tuscany of the South
Basilicata, like Tuscany 30 or 40 years ago, is not a name that many of even the biggest fans of Italy will know much about. It's a region that has been forgotten and lost in time. A region which civilisation did not arrive to, if we are to believe Carlo Levi when he told us that 'Christ stopped at Eboli'. It's main city, Matera and it's beautiful cave dwellings, 'The Sassi', were once a horrific embarrassment for this boot shaped country. The 'shame of Italy' it was once known as.
With a reputation like that, one could wonder where the merit might lay in trying to create a tourism industry here. One might be forgiven for thinking, 'But Italy has Florence, Rome...Venice!' and 'if you want the countryside, well, you go to Tuscany of course don't you?' Tours of Basilicata are not yet at the top of the list of most travellers to Italy.
Well that is all about to change.
Basilicata is one of Italy's, if not the world's, fastest growing territories for tourism and it's got some pretty impressive accolades to boast. For instance, in a national survey carried about ENIT, Italian tourists in 2017 voted Basilicata has having the best restaurant experiences. Not Rome. Not Florence. Not Venice. Not Tuscany. Little old Basilicata.
Basilicata is about to become famous on the European level too. After fighting off the competition from Sienna, Perugia & Assisi, Leece, Ravenna and Calgiari, 2019 will see Matera become the European Capital of Culture and with it even more light will be shone on this once forgotten region. The world's travel media are also starting to pay more and more attention to our region. The Guardian newspaper has written two articles in the last year alone, one about Matera and the other about Basilicata more generally. The New York Times, incredibly, have listed Basilicata as their number 3 destination to visit in the world in 2018. Public broadcasters in the United States have included Basilicata in shows like 'Dream of Italy' and even the BBC have taken interest.
Yet beyond accolades, growing fame and an increased presence on the Italian tourist scene, it's the authentic experiences of Italy that can be had in Basilicata which really deserve the limelight. You see, there was actually a great benefit to being forgotten and lost in time. Our traditions, culture and way of life have been preserved and to those discerning travellers out there, the opportunity to experience and tour a more authentic side to Italy awaits. That authenticity is born in the relationships between Basilicata's people, food and the land and to access that, for even only a week, can be utterly life changing - as Greg found out when first came to Matera.
So 'Tuscany of the South'. Puglia has been described as so also but perhaps Basilicata is a closer match due to its dramatic scenery. However, ultimately, there are enough differences between Tuscany and the southern regions to make anyone with a wanderlust for Italy start considering their next destination in this beautiful country. The food for example is almost completely different here, with a far lighter and more delicate approach that exploits the renowned produce that northern Italians go crazy for. The landscape is less tamed by the touch of man and wilder and more ancient in its beauty. And of course, there are less tourists to ruin your sense that you are really lost in Italy.
Basilicata is arriving, of that there can be no doubt. Every Italian travel expert has drawn the parallels between Tuscany, then Umbria, then Abruzzo and more recently Puglia. With a country as special and beautiful as Italy, it's hardly surprising that there always new regions and experiences to explore here. The only question will be, who will be amongst the first to say that 'I was there, before everyone else'. Who will be the first people to go back to their own lands and tell the tales of Italy's Secret Southern Region? Of places so ancient that they make Rome look modern. Of food experiences so incredible that obviously this region came number 1 in that ENIT survey. Of people and traditions so unique that they burn an impression into your heart with their warmth and their love of life. Of Basilicata - the place that was overlooked, forgotten and lost in time. We've already met some of them and they were completely blown away by their experiences here. We can't wait to meet you too.
If you'd like to discover Italy's Secret Southern Region and organise your own authentic tour of Basilicata, do head over to www.lalucana.com and start exploring what could await you. Ci vediamo presto! We'll see you soon!