My Bella Basilicata
Lagonegro. A medieval town surrounded by woods it is located below Mt. Sirino, where spring flowers burst in profusion. It was previously renowned for the clocks they produced here, specifically for clock towers. High in the mountains is Lake Laudemio at 1525 meters above sea level, the southern-most glacial lake in Europe. There is a legend that Mona Lisa died and was buried here in the Church of San Nicola, an unlikely but persistent tale.
Surnames from Lagonegro:Falabella, Mango, Perciante, Mastroianni, Sabella, Consoli.
Latronico. Known for hot springs and natural streams, there are caves with stalactites, and the hills are rich in pyrite, marble, quartz and granite, so stone work was, and continues to be, an important craft. There was evidence of ancient sacred rituals in the caverns, and artifacts of ancient finds are displayed in the local museum.
Surnames from Latronico: Gioia, Suanno, Gesualdi, Gaudioso, Celano, Lofrano, Forastiere.
Laurenzana. Lovely Laurenzana is highlighted by its stone castled dramatically perched on a rock, overlooked by the main church. The old town of stone homes is pretty, and the oldest part of town once had several towers, which were converted to homes but their structures can still be seen. The cemetery has a chapel tucked away with beautiful frescoes hidden inside. The local patron saint Beato Egidio was from Laurenzana, who performed many miracles and is celebrated with an annual procession. Outside town is the nature preserve dedicated to the white fir trees that grow here.
Surnames from Laurenzana:Trivigno, Martoccia, Pavese, Fanelli, Romano, Nigro, Zito, Manzi.
Lauria. Lauria spreads out across the ridge nestled in the green forest-covered hills below Mt. Sirino. The town is almost completely encircled by national parks. The current town dates back to 1150 but it was originally part of ancient Lucania and then a settlement for colonists from Crete. Lauria is in the midst of mountains, lakes and rivers, but despite its setting is only about one-half hour from the Mediterranean Sea. The town is known for its stone masons, wrought iron work, and wicker crafts. It is a lively town of about 13,000 inhabitants, one of the largest in the area.
Surnames in Lauria: Ielpo, Carlomagno, Cosentino, Lamboglia, Cantisani, Limongi, Nicodemo.
Lavello. The town was an important crossroads between Puglia and Venosa. Its Norman castle is where the son of Frederick II, Conrad, died in 1284. It is now the town hall. This entire area from northern Puglia towards Potenza was a favorite territory of the emperor and he built several castles, all different, in the area. Lavello’s church of Sant’Anna has beautiful artwork by Antonio Stabile.
Surnames from Lavello: Carretta, Caprioli, Bisceglia, Tummolo, Catarinella, Costantino.
Maratea. A jewel on the Mediterranean coast, Maratea is one of Italy’s best kept coastal secrets. Nestled on the hill looking at the turquoise Gulf of Policastro, the town itself is presided over by a colossal statue of Christ called the Redentore, for a striking effect. The rocky coastline is similar to Amalfi’s but without the crowds. There are hidden coves with black sand beaches, or longer expanses of golden beaches, as well. The town itself is quaint with a piazza outlined with sidewalk cafes. It is called the town of 44 churches. The rocky hills provide hiking, while seafood here at the port is excellent.
Surnames from Maratea: Limongi, Brando, Schettino, Lammoglia, Martino, Montesano, Panza.
Marsico Nuovo. A fedual territory that was passed along to several noble barons, who built their regal residences, so the palaces and adornments in the old town are enriched still today. There are also several churches and a cathedral to visit. Located below the slopes of Mt. Volturino, it is an outdoors lover’s paradise for both summer and winter sports. The “carbonari” in the old days worked in the mountains cutting and burning wood to make charcoal.
Surnames from Marsico Nuovo:Votta, Azzato, Pasquariello, Sassano, Vignola, Fortunato, Logiurato.
Marsicovetere. There is an ancient past to this town, where a people called Vestina Lucani lived here before being overrun by the Romans. Marsicovetere is one of the highest towns in Basilicata at 1037 meters above sea level. The town stumbles down the hillside above the Val d’Agri.
Surnames from Marsicovetere: Masino, Vita, Giampietro, Cianciarulo, Gerardi, Ponzio.
Mashito. One of the “Arbereshe” towns founded by Albanians who came to southern in Italy in the early 1500s seeking asylum, Mashito is a very pretty town of narrow streets and doorways adorned with stone portals; it seems no two are alike. The tradition of wine making has been carried on here for centuries and is still an important part of Maschito’s livelihood. Wineries age some excellent vintages of Aglianico del Vulture here. The costumes and customs of the Arbereshe culture are still used here.
Surnames from Maschito include:Gilio, Mecca, Martino, Coviello, Volpe, Grieco, Ciesco, Auletta
Matera. The oldest city in Basilicata is actually thought to the be oldest city in Europe and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sassi are built entire into and out of the tufa rock, a complex urban design that is fascinating. Matera went from riches to rags with the Sassi becoming a squalid embarrassment until they were finally appreciated and renovated beginning in the 1980s, bringing the city back to “riches!”
Surnames from Matera: Montemurro, Nicoletti, Paolicelli, Ruggieri, Tataranni.
Melfi. While Melfi was already well established in the Roman era, it wasn’t until Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, came to town that it was really put on the map. The first written constitution of the Middle Ages was issued from here in 1231. Pope Urban held councils at Melfi and ordered the first crusades from here in 1081. Frederick II amplified the castle to suit his needs and the massive structure still dominates Melfi’s skyline. The town has other beautiful monuments and pretty streets to wander.
Surnames from Melfi:Montanarella, Simonetti, Casorelli, Sansone, Fonana, Basso, Amoroso.
Miglionico. The stalwart fortress with seven towers called the Castello del Malconsiglio is the focal point of Miglionico. The walled town was the domain of the counts of Montescaglioso. There was a conspiracy hatched here in the castle against the king in 1485 which led to their demise, and the renaming of the castle to “Malconsiglio” (bad advice). There are special exhibits and events there now. The streets are worn smooth and glisten; the church of Santa Maria Maggiore has an 11th century bell tower decorated with bas reliefs.
Surnames from Miglionico: Ventura, Piccinni, Marinaro, Musillo, Finamore, Camanda.
Missanello. This tiny village has less than 600 residents but still keeps its pride. Flowers adorn doorways, and peppers and tomatoes dry in the sun. Missanello has several panoramic overlooks on the Val d’Agri and surrounding hills and nature-carved rock formations. It is surrouned by olive groves and is near the wine country of Roccanova. Agriculture is still the mainstay in this country town.
Surnames from Missanello: DiLeo, Izzo, Raccioppi, Conte, Pepe, Micucci, Bruno.
Moliterno. A cluster of homes gripping the hilltop has a skyline highlighted by a luming castle and an impressive church outline. Streets of the medieval center boast palazzi decorated in stone adornments. The beautiful cloister of the monastery has arcades and a water-well in the middle of the courtyard. Skilled woodworking and incising have been important crafts here. Moliterno is most noted for its pungent pecorino cheese, Pecorino Canestrato, a delicious tradition awarded DOP designation and celebrated with an annual sagra and market every August.
Surnames from Moliterno: Lapadula, Cassino, Latorraca, Lagrutta, Albano, Orlando, Tempone, Dalessandri, Melillo
Montalbano Jonico. Just a few miles from the Ionian Coast, this is part of the fruit basket of Italy, where citrus, strawberries and other produce are grown in the mild climate. The town has an almost ideal setting, looking at the sea in one direction and the mountains in the other, while sitting on a hill over the Agri River valley. Olive oil and wine are also produced here. The sculptor/architect Melchiorre da Montalbano was from here; he carved the intricate portal of the church of Anglona outside nearby Tursi and worked throughout the south in the 1200s.
Surnames from Montalbano Jonico include: Malvasi, Castellucci, Qu into, Caporusso, Rosano, Silletti.
Montescaglioso. Named “one of the prettiest towns in Italy,” Montescaglioso has gorgeous views over the hills and the gravina, a 200-meter deep gorge that extends to Matera. There are several churches but the Chiesa Maggiore dominates the town and has paintings by Neapolitan artist Matteo Preti. The Abbey of San Michele with attached Renaissance chapel is an enormous monastery with 365 rooms, cloisters with frescoes and porticoes and a library. Trails lead from here through the Park of the Murgia for hiking enthusiasts to enjoy the dramatic landscape.
Surnames from Montescaglioso: Venezia, Di Taranto, Andriulli, Oliva, Sallucce.
Montemilone. Sitting where the hills give way to the plains of the “murgia” of Puglia, Montemilone is in the billowing grain fields near Venosa and Palazzo San Gervasio. The territory had once been the domain of the emperor Frederick II then spent centuries as a feudal estate under various lords. Today they retain their religious processions and culinary traditions, with delicacies based on the vegetables and legumes grown here, along with caciocavallo cheese, ricotta from sheep milk, and lamb taking starring roles.
Surnames from Montemilone: L’Amelio, Lasaponara, Zezza, Mennuti, Palumbo, Schiavone.
Montemurro. The town fits the form of the mesa on which it sits, above the Lago del Pertusillo and Val d’Agri. It is noted for its goat cheese production, a centuries’ old tradition. The monastery dedicated to Sant’Antonio da Padova has a baroque facade and a frescoed cloister, while its attached church holds lovely statuary. Montemurro is best known for its hometown poet who became one of Italy’s best known writers and art critics, Leonardo Sinisgalli. He was known as the “engineer poet” whose writings were often on ancestral themes and countryside life. A foundation hosts cultural and literary events and publications here in Montemurro.
Surnames from Montemurro: Lobosco, Liuzzi, Angerami, Robilotta, Rotundo, Santomartino.
Muro Lucano. A cascade of pastel houses makes a pretty impression for Muro Lucano on its hillside. You’d never know from the attractive atmosphere that this tranquil spot was once a fierce battlefield between Hannibal and the Roman troops in the Second Punic War, or that Queen Giovanna I was assassinated here by mercenaries sent by her cousin Carlo III. The queen is celebrated today with a festival and Palio. Muro Lucano has a nice archeology museum, and lunar-like canyons called vuculi that are favored by spelunkers and climbers. Muro was the birthplace of St. Gerardo di Maiella, who is co-patron saint of the region of Basilicata (an honor shared with the Madonna Nera of Viggiano).
Surnames from Muro Lucano: Cerone, Pacella, Nardiello, Zaccardo, Perillo, Ferracane, Tummillo.