Invaders of Basilicata
You kinda knew this was coming. Tourists are finally discovering Basilicata, the last untrammelled region of Italy. I’ve written a few times about why I think this part of Italy is so wonderful and it is true that a part of what makes it wonderful is that you just don’t encounter many tourists. Yet, the world needs to discover Basilicata and, apparently, it is.
A few signs that Basilicata is breaking out:
The May 2006 “Europe” issue of Travel and Leisure Magazine has a long piece on “Italy’s Secret City,” Matera, one of the provincial centers of gravity of Basilicata and one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in Europe. The online version of Travel and Leisure proclaims it more bluntly: Italy’s last, secret corner: Basilicata.
The April 2006 edition of Gourmet Magazine asks on the cover “Have You Been To Basilicata?” and delivers a full food-centric tour of the region. (The article is not online, but two of its recipes are.)
In the last few years at least two book-length travelogues have been written about Italy’s instep: Seasons in Basilicata and Under the Southern Sun.
My posts on Basilicata seem to have caught the attention of at least one of the members of Basilicata’s regional government. Recently he sent me a boxload of material relating to external promotion. Guides to wines and olive oils of the region, a CD of music to eat by (not kidding) by a classical composer from Basilicata, multimedia, maps, storybooks, cookbooks, catalogues of arts and crafts. These materials are all new. The regional government seems to be making a big tourism push. They have an advantage too in that a large percentage of foreigners with Italian heritage had ancestors from Basilicata. (The story of why — the destitution of the area in the 19th and 20th centuries — is a subject for another post.) Called the Lucani nel mondo, or Basilicatans of the world, these “expatriates” are a prime target for the new tourist marketing.
So, Basilicata is starting to shake the stereotype of bumpkin backwardness and desolation. This may mean that it will no longer serve as the backdrop of choice for religious moviemakers, but such is life. Basilicata and the south of Italy have for centuries been the Mediterranean waystation for marauding hordes and conquerors (a fact which gives it a greater diversity of cultural influences that regions to the north), so it is only fitting that they are now welcoming a different set of hordes — this time on their own terms.