Why I Love Basilicata

by Brenna Holeman

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Reading back through entries on my blog, I realised I have a bit of a problem. I’m a bit… shall we say… promiscuous. Or, perhaps a nicer, more delicate term might be: I tend to say I love you a lot.

I’m not talking about romantic partners; I don’t think I’ve uttered the phrase to one in almost five years. Cities and countries, on the other hand? To them, I’ll declare my love willy-nilly. A search on my blog for the word “love” turned up 300-odd posts. I’ve published exactly 682 posts. You do the math (my writing mentor is cringing right now.)

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That being said, there are certain places I really do love, and recommend wholeheartedly. Portugal springs to mind, as does London (seriously, I really love London). I recently wrote about how much I loved Limerick, and that article really struck a chord with its citizens. I don’t hide the fact that I love India and Japan and Colombia and Canada and so many others. Interestingly, like many love affairs, my love for places has waxed and waned over the years; Morocco no longer holds as much of the same appeal as it did when I visited in 2006 and 2008, for example.

All of this is to say that I am starting a new series on the blog, which, if you haven’t already figured out, is called “Why I Love ______”. And today, because it’s cold in London and I’m craving pasta (both of those things can be said for nearly every day of the year, to be fair), I’m writing about Basilicata.

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I had never heard of Basilicata before I was invited by their tourism board to visit. Not many others I’ve talked to have heard of it, either. But from the moment I arrived in Bari (which is in southern Italy, and only a short and cheap flight away from London) and then drove an hour to Matera, I knew I was going to like it.

Simply put, Matera is stunning. While I was blown away by the bigger and more famous cities in Italy I’ve seen – Florence, Rome, Venice – Matera had a special charm to it that I found even more appealing. The fact that there are very few tourists compared to these major cities is definitely part of it; very often you feel as though you have the streets to yourself, yours to wander and photograph and soak up.

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But it’s not just Matera that stands out in the region of Basilicata. There’s the gorgeous town of Pietrapertosa, where you can do the incredible Flight of the Angel; Bernalda, for cooking classes and delicious food; the countryside outside of Accettura, for traditional festivals and picnics with some of the most generous people you’ll find in Europe; and the Ionian Coast, where you can sail and swim and spot dolphins.

Why do I love Basilicata? Let me count the ways… through photographs.

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What blew me away in Basilicata was the range of foods I sampled, and that I barely recognised any of them. Forget the tourist restaurants filled with spaghetti that you might feel inundated with in other big Italian cities; in Basilicata the food is carefully crafted, and each bite is delicious.

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The view from Craco

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Gorgeous days on the Ionian Coast

From the abandoned town of Craco to the turquoise waters of the Ionian sea, the region is beautiful at every turn.

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The beautiful town of Pietrapertosa, where a zipline journey on the Flight of the Angel is a must

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Traditions are important in all of Italy; here in the hills outside of Accettura, summertime holds the ridiculously fun Festival of the Marriage of the Trees. If you want to get involved in Italian tradition, I highly recommend visiting during this time. One of my favourite parts of this festival was the music I heard; check out this post for more.

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A place is only as welcoming and as fun as its people. I found the people of Basilicata to be warm and generous, offering us food, wine, and travel tips.

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I met Stefano on the Ionian Coast, when he took us out for a sailing trip. He told me many stories of his adventures crossing the Atlantic; he had sailed across the ocean a total of 18 times, five of those journeys solo.

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And of course… any region of the world that make an espresso as good as the ones in Basilicata automatically make me fall in love.

Have you been to Basilicata, or heard of it? Does it seem like the kind of place you could love, too?

Many thanks to Discover Basilicata for this amazing opportunity to visit the region. 


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Nikita February 2, 2015 - 7:36 pm

Haha, I get you on being promiscuous with locations… I’ve fallen utterly and hopelessly in love with so many places, I would never dream of using that word so frequently for people! Basilicata looks like it could have that effect on me as well. Every time you post about it, I feel like I have to be there!

Brenna Holeman February 3, 2015 - 1:01 pm

I hope you get to visit soon… it’s an incredible place!

Paige February 3, 2015 - 1:42 am

Hi Brenna 🙂 Just wanted to say hello as I have spent an incredibly enjoyable snowy day here in New England reading through many stories on your blog. I am currently in my final year of grad school for fiction writing and trying to figure out how I’d like to live my own life (do I take a job in research administration? Do I spend a couple months backpacking Eastern Europe solo? Can I do both?) Anywho, your stories are so inspiring to me and your writing style is LOVELY. Basilicata has totally captured my imagination. I visited Italy as a teenager and I am still in awe of all that I didn’t have a chance to see on my trip. I cannot wait to return. Thank you for this post (and all the others!)

Brenna Holeman February 3, 2015 - 1:03 pm

Thank you so much, Paige, that means so much to me! I think that you can do both… or at least fit travelling into your life in a way that works. I hope you get to go back to Italy soon! And thanks again for your comment, I really appreciate it and I’m really glad that you’re enjoying the blog.

Camille February 3, 2015 - 2:31 am

I’d never heard of Basilicata until your Instagram pics on your visit there. An Italy that isn’t full of tourists? I didn’t know that existed! Judging from your photos though it deserves a lot more attention.

Brenna Holeman February 3, 2015 - 1:00 pm

I really think it does deserve more attention!

Sarah February 3, 2015 - 11:34 am

We went to Matera in October and loved it too! We were there for the hot air balloon festival and had some of the most amazing flights over the Sassi and through the canyon – so beautiful! And the food! So many delicious things, I think I came back several pounds heavier!

Brenna Holeman February 3, 2015 - 1:01 pm

Oh wow, that sounds amazing! I’m sure it was absolutely beautiful. And yes, the food is incredible!

Michelle @ The Restless Reporter February 4, 2015 - 3:27 pm

I love Italy so much, especially the small towns with no tourists. The locals are so welcoming there – I once had an entire village involved in my road side interview with the mayor of their town, they all helped with the translation from French to Italian and back again – the food is amazing, and every time I come to a new town, each prettier than the last, I just don’t get why I’m the only non-Italian there. Matera is definitely on my list now!

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2015 - 2:47 pm

Aw, that is such an awesome story! I would love to do a road trip around Italy, it is such a beautiful country. I hope you get to Matera soon!

Scarlett February 5, 2015 - 11:33 am

Everything looks so beautiful! The scenery, the buildings, the food looks amazing… I love Italy but so far I’ve only seen the major attractions (Rome, Vesuvius, Capri etc) which were all lovely but seeing Italy without so many tourists must have been great.

Have you been to the Amalfi coast region? I think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of Italy and it’s just about possible to get away from too many tourists sometimes!

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2015 - 2:45 pm

No, I haven’t been there either and I would absolutely love to go! I’ve heard it is gorgeous.

Linda February 5, 2015 - 8:15 pm

Love this post, Brenna. Your food photos are mouth-watering, the views are almost surreal in their beauty, and the people’s smiles are warm and genuine. A glorious tribute to a glorious area of Italy. Thanks for the armchair journey!

Brenna Holeman February 6, 2015 - 1:59 pm

Thank you very much! I think we should have the next family Christmas in Italy… 😉

Brea February 10, 2015 - 5:12 pm

I spent about ten days in the Basilicata region last June and absolutely fell in love, especially with Matera. I was based in Bari and took day trips by train whenever I felt like exploring; I would love to go back and spend more time in different places though!

As always, your writing is so inspiring. As I struggle to find my own voice and figure out what I want out of my own blog, I always come back to you and your stories. So thanks!

Zalie February 12, 2015 - 8:02 pm

I had never heard of Basilicata before you went! It looks like such an amazing place and I know you loved it there. I absolutely adore the picture of the man playing the accordion and the one with you and all the locals. I am sure that Stefano had some amazing stories 🙂

Brenna Holeman February 12, 2015 - 10:29 pm

There were so many great stories from people there! I really want you to visit Italy, you’d love it…

Jodie Young February 15, 2015 - 11:55 am

Beautiful photos, this area looks gorgeous with so many different experiences to be had.

Brenna Holeman February 15, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Thanks, Jodie! It really was a stunning place.

Ashley February 18, 2015 - 8:09 pm

I’ve always dreamed of visiting Italy’s famous cities, but I’m becoming more and more obsessed with the idea of visiting smaller Southern towns after reading blog posts like this one!

I look forward to reading more posts from this series!

Brenna Holeman February 19, 2015 - 12:23 am

Thank you so much, Ashley! I agree with you, there is so much of Italy I need to explore… I hope to go back this summer!

Sharon Zahra February 22, 2015 - 7:19 pm

Basilicata is one of my favourite regions in Italy. I suggest you put Puglia on your list then! The food is amazing, the beaches are filled with turquoise waters and most of the towns have cute little ports filled with small fishing boats! My favourite two towns where Otranto and Polignano a mare 🙂

Just Not My Type: The Places I Didn't Love - This Battered Suitcase May 26, 2015 - 2:53 pm

[…] would be impossible to think that one could love every single place in the entire world. Although I frequently claim to, and usually only write about the places I really do recommend and love, there are a whole lot of […]

Robert August 5, 2016 - 5:12 pm

I just heard you being interviewed by Tommy Schnurmacher on CJAD in Montreal. You mentioned that you were planning to be in Naples and southern Italy next year, and I was going to suggest that you visit Basilicata and, specifically, Matera, and then I find this! My wife’s mother, who lives in Rome, is from Pisticci in Basilicata. We visited Pisticci and Matera in January. Incredible places. You might like to read “Christ Stopped in Eboli” by Carlo Levi, about his exile to Basilicata a.k.a. Lucania during the Fascist Era. We’re planning a beach vacation to Puglia this fall. Happy travels!

Brenna Holeman August 5, 2016 - 5:41 pm

Thank you for listening to the interview! I absolutely loved Basilicata, I would love to go back and explore even more. Matera took my breath away. I would also like to visit Puglia… anyway, thanks again, and thanks for all of these great tips! Have an amazing time in Italy.

Mahee Ferlini August 27, 2016 - 3:06 pm

It ‘s an incredible place!

Marcia Pelletiere August 27, 2016 - 9:50 pm

My husband’s people are from Basilicata. We have never been there, but are going this fall.
The man in your photo, Silvano, has a face so much like my husband’s, they could be brothers! If you can tell us how to contact him, we would just love to look him up and take a photo of them together!

Greg Foster May 17, 2017 - 12:10 pm

Ciao Brenna!

That’s a really awesome blog post about my home region, Basilicata. I actually moved here, to Matera, in 2 and half years ago!

My girlfriend and I (she’s from Matera) are running a great new business from her parent’s agriturismo and it gives English speaking travellers the opportunity to experience many of things that you’ve so wonderfully described in this blog post!

Thanks again for bringing attention to this fantastic region of Italy, it really is a very special place.

All the best,

Adam Weiss January 14, 2020 - 2:14 pm

On june I will be with my wife on honeymoon in Puglia. We fly on monday to Bari and have apartments: Tuesday on Matera, Wednesday on Locorotondo, Thursday on Monopoli and on friday we back from Bari to Poland. Our plan its on wednesday morning go early to Alberobello, to see truli houses without tourist. And now fatal information for us, I dont see any direct connect between Matera and Alberobello. I see only options: a) back to Bari and train from Bari to Alberobello or b) TAXI. But both of this options are not good: way to and from Bari its lost time and TAXI its very expensive, more than 75 euro… Unfortunely we dont have drive licence, so we canot rent a car… Do You have some advice? What we can do?

King Regards

Adam Weiss


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