The Vulture Area in Basilicata: Wine, Cheese and Castles!

The Vulture Area in Basilicata: Wine, Cheese and Castles!

If you are a curious traveler, forget the most popular Italian cities, and choose a special region; Basilicata, not far from Puglia, the perfect destination for food and wine lovers!

In Italy, the places to visit are endless, this country is full of places that one should see at least once in life… Yet, if you are a curious traveler, forget the most popular destinations, and choose a special region; Basilicata, not far from Puglia, South of Italy. In Basilicata, tourism is not aggressive, since this unique land attracts only a special kind of traveler.

Holidays in Basilicata can be extremely interesting and varied due to the radical changes of the landscape even in such a small area: from the sea to the mountains, crossing forests and going up and down from hills and canyons. All this accompanied by excellent food and wine. And culture, of course.

Let’s start by exploring the northern area of the region, called “Vulture – Melfese”, characterized by the strong presence of traces from the Norman, Swabian and Angevin civilizations. In particular, one of the most famed Swabian emperors, Frederick II, decided to raise several castles in this area for his holidays: there, in the pristine land of Basilicata, he dedicated himself to his great passion: hunting.

Lagopesole and Frederick “the One-Eyed”

Moving from Potenza to Melfi, you will come across Castel Lagopesole, near Avigliano, where you can see one of the most beautiful castles in the South of Italy. Built between 1242 and 1250, the last and largest castle wanted by the Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, called the One-Eyed, has a rectangular shape and dominates the village of Avigliano. It was in the hands of different historical dynasties until after the 1981 earthquake it has become a museum about the history of Lucania (which is the ancient, and still in use, name of Basilicata region).

The volcanic lakes of Monticchio

Heading north, you can make a refreshing stop the Monticchio Lakes, near Rionero in Vulture. These two volcanic lakes situated at the foot of Monte Vulture, a small vulcano (in the main picture) are surrounded by a luxurious flora and inhabited by a rich fauna. They are dominated by the Benedictine Abbey of San Michele, built before the XI century d.C.

Melfi, the Norman capital city

The next stop is Melfi that in the Middle Ages was the capital of the Normans. The Old Town was entirely surrounded by defensive walls of that period, still largely intact. Here you will have the chance to the most famous castle of the region, built in about 1230, full of square and polygonal tower. Today the Castle of Melfi, after passing into the hands of wealthy local families, hosts a National Archaeological Museum.

Visit Venosa and “carpe diem” or… seize the day!

Finally, you will come across Venosa. The Venosa area is green and fresh, perfect for a late summer weekend.

Among the “treasures” stored by this small town with only 12,000 inhabitants, there is the archaeological park, which includes the thermal Roman baths, the domus, and the amphitheater. Probably made between the Augustan and the Julio-Claudian periods, the spa included changing rooms and a cold and a warm zone.

The amphitheater is impressive, an ellipse composed of three levels of stairs with a central arena, built up between the first and second century A.D.

Than there is the Aragonese Castle in Venosa, built in 1470, with a similar structure to the Angevin castle in Naples, and used at that time as a fortress and prison. Today it houses the Municipal Library and the National Archaeological Museum. Another highlight of the town is St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Finished in 1502, the church has two floors and three aisles: the bell tower, 42 meters high, is visible from every part of the city. But Venosa is particularly famous for other reasons too: first of all it was the birthplace of Quinto Orazio Flacco, one of the most famous Roman “carpe diem” poet, and Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa, a composer of madrigals and sacred music. Furthermore, last year Venosa was in top ten most beautiful Italian villages, which are definitely some of the places to see in Italy.

Pecorino di Filiano DOP and Aglianico del Vulture

This area is known among the lovers of gourmet food and wine, for the refined Basilicata wine, Aglianico del Vulture, considered one of the most delicious red wines of Italy, which gained the DOC status in 1971: a harmonious and intense smell, dry, savory, and warm. From the same area comes the famous Pecorino di Filiano, a delicious DOP sheep cheese with a long tradition. This Pecorino is made from milk of grass-fed sheep, and aged for at least 180 days in tufa caves or underground. Its paste is crumbly and spicy, with aromatic intensity rather high.

Every year, in September, Filiano is the set of an important fair of dairy products, particularly dedicated to its special Pecorino cheese, of course.

So for your next holidays in Southern Italy, plan a trip to Basilicata. You won’t be disappointed!

The map of Basilicata, Italy: the Vulture region

Notte; Abbazia di San Michele; Pecorino and peperoni di Rocco Lucia, CC BY 2.0 | Monte Vulture by Michael Nielson, CC BY-ND 2.0 | Map by Mario Nenno, edited

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