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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Game is abundant in the region: hares and wild boars cooked in very
hot cacciatore sauce are local
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
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
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.