Autumn tour part 2, continued…
Put on the map after being mentioned in Frommer’s 10 years ago, Castelmezzano manages to retain the look of a place untouched by mass tourism. Set within the Dolimiti Lucane mountain range, this small village of less than a thousand souls is a draw for thrill-seekers (rock climbing and ziplining), nature lovers, romantics, history buffs, and even those looking to re-connect with their past. Our b&b host shared with us:
“We had an American here recently. Her father was in the military and the family lived here when she was very young. Her sister died of an illness before they left to return to the states, and she wanted to leave a marker in her memory.”
We came here partly out of sentiment (vacationing friends had sent a postcard ages ago) and because it was listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy. We liked the remoteness, the sensation of being up where the birds fly, and how silent it was at night.
Naturally the first thing we noticed was the incredible view. Looking at, out, up, down, or from if you happen to have a balcony room. This was ours from Al Balcone delle Dolomiti, a family-run b&b at the top of the village. It felt like a privilege compared to other places we could’ve stayed at, but there was a catch – trudging back up the 21% slope when we walked down to explore.
For a different perspective we drove the narrow winding road (southern option) connecting to Pietrapertosa. From this angle Castelmezzano is barely visible on the left while Pietrapertosa can be clearly seen on the right.
Bedroom picnic dinner
Foiled again! No-dog policy at the only Slow Food resto in town. But a couple of tiny shops had everything we needed: pizza, cheese, locally-produced and super spicy salsiccia, plump muscat grapes, and those peperoni cruschi that I posted while we were there.
About those peperoni cruschi…
Arianna our b&b host told us the way her mother prepares them: a drizzle of olive oil in a hot pan, then fry the peppers for no more than 30 seconds. Place the pan immediately in a cool area (like next to an open window) so that the shock of cold air will help to crisp up the peppers and make them crunchy. I just tried this with a pinch of fleur de sel – yummy pepper chips!
Basilicata merits another visit (a fellow b&b guest said the town of Venosa is a must for ancient ruins) because the region has so much to offer: beaches at Maratea, medieval castles in Melfi and Lagopesole, and last but not least, the city of Matera which is the biggest attraction being a world heritage site. The only ruins en route to our next destination in Puglia were the remains of the Tavole Palatine in Metapontum.
This is all that’s left of a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera. Parking is free and there’s no admission fee, and you’re allowed to wander without restriction. I couldn’t understand why this place wasn’t swarming with tourists, but what an advantage for taking photos.
Up next: 3 glorious days in a pajara…