Basilicata or Lucania

 

 

This mountainous territory is surrounded on the north by the Campania region, on the west by Apulia and Calabria on the south. It was inhabited by the indigenous population called Lucani who had assimilated with the people of Anatolian origin, the Liky, who emigrated in the region between 1300 and 1000 BC.
The name Lucani could originate from “luc” (light) or lucius (shining) and Lucani is the name the people in the area call themselves. 
In the period  when the Roman emperor Constantine transferred the capital from Rome to Byzantium, renamed Nova Roma in the year 330 and Constantinople in 337 in his honor, the original name Lucania was changed into Basilicata from the Greek “basilea” meaning (part of the) kingdom.
This is the only Italian region that has two official names Lucania and/or Basilicata, although the Basilicatesi or Basilischi prefer to be called Lucani.
The region is divided into two provinces Potenza and Matera. 
The province of Potenza, on the side of the Tyrrhenian Sea, has a short and rocky coastline broken by small sandy beaches, beautiful resorts and excellent restaurants. 
The town of Maratea located in this rocky coastline is blessed by a mild climate, and it is surrounded by fertile soil, florid Mediterranean vegetation and modern and comfortable hotels. Interesting small towns to visit are Lagopesole, Rivello, Lagonegro, Melfi and Rapolla.
The interior part of the provinces of Potenza and Matera is formed by mountainous hills, called Lucanian Dolomites, with mesmerizing views, small  villages with proud traditions, history and a legacy to their Samnite ancestors, whose influence is evident in their dialects, in their character and in their cuisine.
Matera, the capital of the province, was founded in prehistoric times. A new city was built in the last century; the original and old part of the city is made of homes dug into the rocks and of natural caves utilized as dwellings that go back to the Neolithic age and known as I Sassi (the Stones). Those grottos that at a first look appear to be positioned in a chaotic order, have a widespread complex hydraulic system to distribute, collect, store and keep the water fresh and drinkable. The caves are without windows, and have a sophisticated natural ventilation system to achieve a temperature of 60 degrees all year around.
Most probably you have seen the pictures and the biblical landscape of Matera Sassi in one of the many films shot in the location by Mel Gibson (The Passion of Christ), by Pier Paolo Pasolini (The Gospel According to Matthew), by Bruce Beresford (King David), by Catherine Hardwiches (Nativitity), by John Moore (Omen), by Alberto Lattuada (La Lupa) or Giuseppe Tornatore (The Star Maker), to name a few. 
The province of Matera with seaside resort towns in the Ionian coast offers, aside from architectural testimonial of  the Greeks who inhabited this land, wide sandy shores, clear waters, good hospitality and a myriad of family restaurants which are a gourmand’s paradise.  Pisticchi, Policoro, Scanzano, Metaponto are the preferred Ionian Sea resorts by discriminating tourists of all ages; inland Montescaglioso, Miglionico, Tricarico are towns rich of archeological findings, museums, history, folklore, festivals and interesting exhibitions.
Montescaglioso was the birthplace of Mr. Vincent Motola a good friend, who colorfully described it as a peaceful town, with clean air, where agriculture played an economical leading role. The town is out of the tourist crowd except for the month of August when the feast of Saint Roch, Santo Rocco, the town’s Patron, takes place and for the yearly fashion show that attracts the leading international couturiers. 
The main products olives, wheat, other cereals and a large production of vegetables along with pork and sheep rearing deliver countless gastronomic specialties like soppressata and other pork product, recipes of homemade soups and entrees fragrant and enriched with the local tasty olive oil, not to talk about the hard wheat homemade bread and the original cheeses produced in the area.
Mr. Motola remembered Christmas in Montescaglioso with all the traditions and folklore: the cucibocca, the man with the big hat who frightened children to saw their lips because they were too fresh or used bad words, the pettole, plain zeppole fried with fresh olive oil and covered with sugar or the cauzuncidd, sort of pancakes stuffed with ricotta or chickpeas and the homemade biscuits, fragrant with ginger and cinnamon.        
Lucania is famous for natural spas: the Terme di Latronico and the Terme Lacalda are beneficial to arthritis-rheumatic diseases; the Terme Ala in Rapolla is suggested for patients subject to respiratory diseases, for the cure of arthritis and rheumatism and beneficial to respiratory and metabolic problems.
The regional cooking is simple, a Greek legacy, it is spice-hot a trait of the Saracen domination, and the Samnite heritage shows in the preparation of various cheeses, other milk products and the expertise in the production of preserved meats.
A cured sausage, the soppressata literarily meaning pressed or squeezed, is made with the best parts of the pork, it is the most typical Lucanian salame produced and exported in large quantities. The soppressata is made with coarsely ground pork, seasoned with salt, black and red hot pepper. 
Other spices introduced in Basilicata by the Saracens, are still used by some manufacturers to aromatize the soppressata. The sausages are dried for 6 to 12 weeks and then for additional 3 to 6 weeks stored in large earthenware containers covered with oil to cure them and pressed with a weight giving to the soppressata the characteristic oval shape. 
The famous luganega is a local sausage also made with the best parts of the pork; it is seasoned with fennel seeds, hot red pepper, salt and black pepper. Now produced all over Italy and sold with the same name is only an imitation because in Basilicata the pigs are fed exclusively with acorn, fava beans and corn which gives to the pork a different taste and consistency. The salsiccia pezzente (pauper’s sausage) is made with parts of the pork not used in the above preparation and include parts of the head, interiors, glands, and various scraps. Usually, it is seasoned with fennel seeds, hot red pepper, salt and black pepper and if it is consumed fresh, it can be broiled or cooked with assorted vegetables and served with the special dark and compact homemade baked bread, or cured (stagionata) for 6 to 12 weeks and eaten raw.
The salsiccia pezzente is no longer a pauper’s sausage; in fact it is now a gourmand’s delight.
The rustic Lucanian bread baked in the countryside, is used in the preparation of “I piatti poveri”, the simple and poor dishes. The bread is cooked with various vegetables and pecorino cheese, eggs, hot pepper, and fragrant olive oil added to complete. Soups preparations like the cialledda and theciambotta are made with the vegetables, herbs and fruits growing in this region: they are very tasty and exceptionally aromatic giving these dishes a unique quality. 
Lard extensively used in cooking, gives to the Lucanian cuisine a hearty taste and flavors without being overwhelming, the many pastas can be sampled in the many family run Trattoria where you can discover and appreciate a new world of cookery with colorful names and original flavors and spices. In all recipes hot red pepper is used in abundance, and when eating in a restaurant we suggest, unless you have a preference for spice-hot food, that you ask for the red pepper to be served on the side.
The minestra maritata (married soup) is made with a myriad of vegetables and pork, the orecchiette are served with kid’s ragu’ or with the tender part of the turnips or with a combination of ragu’ and ricotta; the same sauce can be used for the panzerotti, the ricotta filled ravioli.
Strangula prieviti (strangle priests) and fusilli pasta are served with a light mild tomato sauce or ragu’. 
The homemade tagliatelle are served with a sauce made with a vegetable puree using fresh fava beans, chickpeas or beans. Pasta alla trainera is made with capers, garlic, lots of red hot pepper, olive oil, sometimes fresh tomatoes and topped with grated local pecorino cheese or with the mild caciocavallo. Pasta with fish and shell fish are served in the costal towns, where fish is the preferred entrée. Inland, baccala’ with hot pepper is a dish inherited from the Normans, near the lakes or rivers where the fishing of trout and eels are a source of good and tasty proteins. 
The abundance of pasture favors the breeding of sheep and goats which are prepared in many ways often cooked with the lambascioni (wild onions), wild fennels, rosemary mint, cumin, and the fruity and fragrant sorrel or barbequed or baked. Other regional dishes are the capuzzelle, the heads of young lamb or kid baked or boiled, the gnommarielli a dish made with sheep interiors.
Game is abundant in the region: hares and wild boars cooked in very hot cacciatore sauce are local specialties.
The antipasti are original and various. The soppressata is the king of all appetizers and it is usually coupled with other local specialties
The capriata made with seasoned and mashed white cannellini beans is served on unsophisticated hearty slices of bread and covered with endive or any available leafy vegetable. Mushrooms are plentiful and are sautéed, stuffed, baked or served in a salad with olive oil garlic and hot red pepper. The olive morte, literarily dead olives are salted and dried in the sun, the pupacc crusk is made with dry red hot peppers fried in olive oil. Served as appetizer are small peppers stuffed with a very hot filling and dry tomatoes preserved in olive oil.  
Beside the pecorino canestrato cheese and the mild caciocavallo, a sharp provolone cheese is produced along with soft cheeses, ricotta and the mild pear shaped scamorze.
On the sweet side the region does not have a large variety of original recipes.
The lagana chiapputa is a lasagna stuffed with must (cooked wine), raisins, assorted nuts, and preserved fruits. The pizza rustica is stuffed with sweetened ricotta, diced preserved fruits and raisins. The pannaredd are made for Easter and are dolls made with sweet bread decorated with eggs.Sanguinaccio, sweet blood sausage, is prepared for Carnival; Christmas is celebrated with the pettole, fried little balls of sweet dough, covered with honey and must.
Other desserts are made with recipes borrowed from nearby regions. 
A famous herbal, alcoholic drink, Amaro Lucano is a bitter digestive drink, made since 1894 and is very popular in Italy.
The wines are produced in limited quantity: red Agliano di Vulture is made with Aglianico grapes of a Hellenic or Greek beginning and it is an amable wine; the white Verdeca is a straw dry wine andValbradano red and white have a complex taste. The Muscat and Malvasia dessert wines are made using grapes dried in the plant to produce a sweeter and higher alcoholic wine.