Towns of Basilicata: "N, O, P"

Nemoli.  An area rich in natural resources with abundant streams, wooded hills and wildlife, Nemoli is located in the Lucanian Apennine mountain range, sitting at the base of Mt. Sirino.  Its name derives from the Latin word “nemus” meaning woods.  It is near Rivello and Lauria.  The narrow lanes of the old town are often intertwined with archways and overhangs, accentuated with balconies and loggias.  Just to the northeast is Lake Sirino, a lovely alpine lake.  Nemoli retains its folk music and traditions, including a large bonfire in the piazza on Christmas Eve and mountain fare like polenta.
Common surnames from Nemoli:Lelpo, Carlomagno, Anania, Cantisani, Alagia, Di Lascio, Lentini.

Noepoli.  Part of Magna Grecia and the Lucani domain, there are artifacts from both civilizations in the Siritide Museum in Policoro that were uncovered here around Nemoli.  It enjoyed a strategic position near the Calabria border.  Today Noepoli is at the gateway to the Pollino National Park.  There is a fascinating world of rock sculptures in the canyons along the Sarmento River which is often referred to as “the Grand Canyon of Basilicata.”
Some surnames from Noepoli include: Santo, Calabrese, Rinaldi, Cirigliano, Valicenti, Libonati, Blumetti.


Oliveto Lucano.  Set amidst woods and mountains, Oliveto Lucano enjoys a splendid natural landscape with geological and archeological wonders.  The old city was founded by Sannites in the 5th century BC, and huge blocks that formed the wall are still visible.  There are also interesting megaliths called Petra de la Mola, stones that formed an ancient astrological calendar.
Common surnames from Oliveto Lucano: Loscalzo, Garofalo, Terranova, Spinelli, Deufemia.

Oppido Lucano.  The town was called Palmira from 1863-1933 then changed back to Oppido, so many immigration records may list this mysterious, now non-existent name!  There are several churches with artwork that represent Oppido’s claim to fame – artists like Andrea Giannico, Giovanni Todisco, Antonio Stabile and Andrea Viso were commissioned to adorn these buildings.  The town is surrounded by olive groves and beautiful landscapes.
Some surnames from Oppido Lucano:Lancellotti, Manniello, Mancuso, Pepe, Lioi, Fidanza, Viola, Evangelista.

Palazzo San Gervasio.  The Palazzo in the name refers to the manor house of Frederick II, used as his horse farm and residence between his castles of Basilicata and Puglia.  The town is located where Basilicata gives way to the plains of Puglia, and the street layouts are more Pugliese in character.  The main church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, was built in “Puglian Romanesque” style.
Surnames from Palazzo San Gervasio:Palermo, Liberatore, Cancellara, Paradiso, Saponara, Cicoria, Griesi. 

Palmira.  See Oppido Lucano.

Paterno.  A small town in the fertile valley of the Agri River, Paterno has always been closely tied to agriculture.  It still is today, especially the cultivation of beans.  Named “Paternicum” which means “land of the fathers,” the population was spread out around the countryside so the town took in a large territory.  The old town is compact and centered around the main church of San Giovanni Evangelista.
Surnames from Paterno (Basilicata):  Grosso, Notarfrancesco, Logiurato, Cirone, Coiro, Laino.

Pescopagano.  This mountain town is located near the Basilicata-Campania border.  Its history reaches back several millennia.  Its castle looks like it was built right into the rock.  The town suffered damage during a strong earthquake in 1980 but some of the old town remains, and there is a pretty communal park.
Surnames from Pescopagano:Roselli, Pinto, Lanza, Miele, Scioscia, Araneo, Lotano. 

Picerno.  Picturesque Picerno can be seen from the Basentana highway, sitting in the sun on its hill.  The charming centro storico has palazzi, hidden corners, stone portals, and a beautiful church that houses a nice nativity scene by Pietrafesa.  Stone towers are scattered around, but the most prominent is the round fortress tower that defines the town’s skyline.  Picerno is famous for its salami production.
Surnames from Picerno:Capece, Caivano, Russillo, Curcio, Figliuolo, Marcantonio.

Pietragalla.  The old town is decked out with stone buildings, cobbled streets with steps, arches and galleries, and some interesting buildings.  There is a ducal palace and an historic church that dates to the 1200s that boasts a Byzantine bell tower.  Ancient history happened on the hill with a war between the Lucani and the Greeks, where there was a settlement already in the 5th century BC.  A hike up Mt. Torretta will let you see an ancient protective wall and where an acropolis once stood at the highest point.  The superstitious folks resettled to the current site after an earthquake in 1456 rattled their town and their nerves.  The “palmenti” is an interesting little “cave village” used for fermentation and storage of wine since the 1300s.
Common surnames from Pietragalla:  De Bonis, Romaniello, Guglielmi, Pafundi, Galotta, Filippi.

Pietrapertosa.  Perforated rock is a funny name but when you see how the town is built right onto the mountain peak, you’ll see why.  It is the highest and most dramatically set town in Basilicata, a place that remained relatively isolated until after WWII.  There are breathtaking views and clear starry nights, charming lanes and the remnants of an Arab quarter.  The Saracens settled here, unsettling the residents of Castelmezzano across the gorge, who still look with wary eyes across the divide.  The skies are full of eagles, hawks, and falcons...and angels, thanks to the Volo dell’Angelo zip line that spans the gorge.  The town celebrates its Arab roots every summer with an exotic festival.
Surnames from Pietrapertosa:
 Mazza, Lauria, Cavuoti, Vernucci, Iula, Canosa, Piccirillo.

Pignola.  Only ten minutes from Potenza but a world away in the hills and green valleys at 927 meters above sea level.  The snail-shaped old center has narrow lanes that spiral to the top.  It is known as the town of 100 portals for its stone doorways and other adornments.  Pignola was known for its master stone masons and had a school of the trade.  Outside of town is the WWF Lake Pantano reserve with trekking, fishing, horse riding and even ultra-lights.  There is a high-energy Palio horse race in the streets for the Festa of Sant’Antonio every January 16.
Surnames from Pignola include: Rosa, Albano, Corleto, Marino, Santangelo, Vista, Dolce, Olita.


Pisticci.  The pretty town of Pisticci rambles across the ridge with the defining tower and dome of the cathedral forming a skyline.  The Dirupo district is a charming quarter of white-washed sugar cube houses with pointed roofs all in neat rows below the cathedral. The countryside is made up of eroded shallow canyons and rolling hills.  The town takes in the territory of Marina di Pisticci where there are wide stretches of natural beaches backed by pinewoods.
Some surnames from Pisticci: Quinto, Viggiani, D’Alessandra, Vena, Lopatriello, Panetta.

Policoro.  The site of ancient Heraclea was dedicated to Hercules, then named Polico from the Greek meaning “spacious land”.  After a period of growth it was abandoned and taken over by swamps.  The remains of the ancient Magna Grecia colony are seen at the Parco Archeologico Nazionale dell Siritide, which displays an array of artifacts from the Lucani, Greek, Romans.  The beach area is a despressing strip cement block buildings.
Surnames from Policoro: Guida, Donadio, Manolio, Suriano, Bianco.

Pomarico.  With first Lucani then Greek settlements, the town’s history reaches back a few millennia.  The current town was built in the 900s and retains some lovely palazzi and churches.  The former marquis’ palace has a museum.  The old town hosted a castle, the oldest in the area, but only the foundation remains.  Nearby is the Bosco della Monferrata woods, a natural area with walking and biking trails.  The countryside around Pomarico is dotted with olives, vines and fruit orchards.
Surnames commonly found in Pomarico: Laterza, Vitello, Musillo, Lupo, David, Cirella, Armandi.

Potenza.  The city is Italy’s highest regional capital at 819 meters above sea level.  It is known as the city of staircases because of its vertical urban plan, and is home to Europe’s longest escalator.  The elegant historic center spans the length of the crest, with some beautiful churches along the way.  There is a small  jewelry box theater that still hosts cultural shows.  The Archeology Museum Palazzo Loffredo is one of southern Italy’s most impressive.  The city suffered much damage during the 1980 earthquake so a good deal of it is new construction.
Surnames from Potenza: Telesca, Pace, Santarsiero, Sabia, Coviello, Nole’, Pietrafesa, Claps.