15 March 2008

Unique Southern Italy

Varied landscape

Last weekend we took Valerie’s parents down to Lucania, the ancestral land of her great-grandparents. One of the things I noticed while driving the 1200 km down and back from Marche through Abruzzo, Molise, Lucania and Puglia is how the landscape in the southern half of Italy varies greatly.

Here in Marche we have rolling hills that stretch from sandy beaches to the snow covered Sibillini Mountains to the west. Driving north and south requires a lot of going up hills and into valleys or passing through as many as fourteen tunnels along the A14.

Abruzzo is very similar but the Gran Sasso rises even higher than the Sibillini. Both of these areas have vineyards and crops clinging to the hills with hilltop towns. The beaches of southern Abruzzo are stone with many isolated coves.

Once you pass into Molise the area along the coast flattens out and by the time you enter Puglia the landscape is almost completely flat and spotted with numerous wind turbine farms. Puglia has a rocky soil and an abundance of olive trees, they seem to stretch on forever in all directions.

As you leave Puglia and enter Lucania the roads begin to rise in front of you as you enter this mountainous area. This region has rolling hills in the Vulture area, steep gorges on the Murgia Plateau near Matera and rugged mountains south of Potenza. There are areas of Lucania we have not visited but I am confident they are just as impressive.

Lucania, shown as Basilicata on your map, seems to get a bad rap from all the tour books we have seen. That is if they even mention the region! Carlo Levi pointed out some of the poverty in this area over 50 years ago and many people think that nothing has changed. From what we have seen it has; the people are happy, friendly and oh so generous. Plus the food is great. If you think Lucania is poor you should check out the glamour stores in Matera, they would rival those in any northern Italian city.

Many of the images people see of Italy who have never been here are of Roman ruins, museums and glamour stores but for those who also love varied landscapes Italy has this too…and in abundance.


Anonymous said...

How beuatiful! I would like to explore southern Italy, but find it challenging since I don't speak Italian and it seems hard to find resources online. But with scenery like this, maybe I'll try it.

Bryan said...

One plus with this area, as in most of Italy, the people are very friendly and if you try a little italians they can be very generous with helping you. It is worth the try to see this area.