Friday, August 19, 2011

Basilicata Coast to Coast

Ours is a mountainous region.  The majority of the landscape is dominated by peaks and crags, which makes for great hiking, dramatic views, and beautiful sunsets.  The hill towns were, historically,  kept fairly isolated and so they still maintain their centuries- (or millenia-) old traditions, thanks to the rugged topography. 

What is less known about Basilicata is that it jealously cradles two little slices of coastline to give the mountain folk a break from the altitude every now and then.  Yesterday we dipped our toes in two seas on different sides of the shoe.

Maratea is Basilicata's more popular seaside resort, but it's hardly what you'd call famous.  But it should be.  Really.  It is very reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast, further north:  mountains tumbling to the crystalline Mediterranean with pastel houses clutching the cliffs; breathtaking views from insanely narrow and windy roads; fishing boats and slices of beaches.  Bougainvillea and hibiscus explode in bloom.  In a word: stunning.  But in mid-August when every strip of sand to the north of Basilicata is occupied and every hotel and restaurant is jammed, Maratea had some room to move.  It was crowded - enough to be lively and festive - but not over-run.  We found parking without circling and idling.  We found a table at a port-side restaurant without a reservation.  We even found some space on the beach to spread out our towels.

The beaches are mostly of honey-colored sand, but we went to the more exotic black beach to the south of the port.  Rather than sand, it's sprinkled with teensy black pebbles, bold against the blue water but scorching to the feet.  The reflected heat was incredible and we didn't last nearly as long as we would have if we'd chosen the more traditional beach.  However, the hillside along the water was pocked with grottoes, and you could swim in one and out another, which was fun.  Too bad we didn't have snorkel gear.

We explored the lovely centro storico, plonked down on the hill above, which is a pretty maze of pedestrian alleys and churches with vibrantly-tiled floors.  It has an air of sophistication but without feeling fussy or pretentious.  We kept ooh-ing and aah-ing as we walked about, impressed by it all.

Then Bryan wanted to take a cue from the film that was released last year and cross over to the other seaside of Lucania.  The movie, Basilicata Coast to Coast, followed a group of musicians who walked across the region to a music festival.  It was cute but thin on plot.  We drove the Val Sinni, skirting the peaks of the Pollino National Park and zipping past the rounded erosion formations around Aliano, and arrived in Scanzano just in time for sunset.

The Ionian Sea is stark contrast to Maratea.  It is a coastal plain, flat and unremarkable.  Scanzano is perhaps the ugliest of the less-than-attractive towns along the beachfront with concrete apartment blocks and nothing to distinguish itself.  Most of the towns on this stretch are unfortunately rather unsightly.  But the beaches are long and wide with softer sand, and some are flanked by nature preserves with welcome woods for shade.

We got our feet wet and took photos of the red-orbed sun as it slowly set to the west...towards Maratea.  On the other side of the country.  One day.  Two seas.  With mountains in between.  A beautiful day in Basilicata, from coast to coast.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The 7 Links Project in a Pinon Tree

Y'all know that I like me a good meme now and then, but this one is a little special - first, because I was tagged by lovely Laura, a friend on the Amalfi Coast, who had very sweet words when she named me; and second because it is sponsored by Tripbase, which had previously given me an honored spot on their List of European bloggers.  How could I resist this one?

My 7 Links Project aims to "unite bloggers in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again."  Fabulous!  It was fun to go though the ol' archives of posts past and peruse them again.  There were a lot of things I'd forgotten about, so a little trip down memory lane is always nice.

So here we go...My 7 Links in the categories selected by Tripbase:

1.  My Most Beautiful Post

The first one to jump forward in my memory bank was the tribute I wrote for my maternal grandfather when he passed away.  I don't mind telling you that re-reading Farewell Old Fart brought tears to my eyes all over again.

2.  Most Popular Post

Far and away the most popular is the Nutella Day contribution I made back in 2007.  I still get lots of hits on that Nutella Birthday Cake.  Note to self:  get your rear in gear to participate in World Nutella Day next time around!

3.  Most Controversial Post

Hmm, I've never really taken on anything controversial, though I did get a couple of kinda gentle 'dissenters' with my post, To Be a Paesana.  That's about as controversial as it's gotten around the Pinon Tree.  Maybe I need the rattle the nest a bit more?

4.  Most Helpful Post

I can't decide if my most helpful post was Pricey Post:  How To Mail Stuff to Italy, which is important for those of you who love us and want to give us gifts.  Or, Are You Dreaming of Italy, which is helpful for those who...well, dream of living here.  So I'm naming both because, 1) they are both helpful, and 2) I've been writing this blog for a long time and think I should be able to name two if I want to.  (Am I stirring up controversy yet?)

5.  A Post Whose Success Surprised Me

I'd have to say that the number of hits and comments on Wanted: New Residents did take me by surprise.  For those of you still dreaming, read the article mentioned above...then come visit.  They're still asking for some new blood around here!

6.  A Post Which Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved

One that I would have considered "important" and that didn't seem to generate much interest was A Day of Remembrance.  I thought the link to Dear Davide would have illicited more emotion (it sure left me bawling).  I think with the frantic pace of newsbytes and the insanity of celebrity "news," the real tragedies and lives that need attention get pushed aside.  It's just sad.

7.  The Post I'm Most Proud Of

 Hard choice.  I'm going with The Last Mule of Anzi, partly because it shows the continuity of tradition that is still alive here in the south, and partly because famiglia and friends in Anzi enjoyed it and were proud of it, too. 

I'm not tagging anyone specific because, looking at the impressive list, I think everyone I know has already been included!  If not, I don't want you to feel left out!  Play along - and let me know that you've posted!