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.


leslie said...

love!!! i am taking notes! :)

Anonymous said...

So Beautiful!!! Lucky you!!!
Diane :)

Saretta said...

Fun! I liked that movie. Some friends of mine are training to do the same crossing, but by bicycle.

Valerie said...

Leslie - Great! Get here soon!

Diane - We *are* lucky :) Come visit!

Saretta - That's cool; there's a lot of cycling around here. People come from Holland with their bikes to do the mountain roads. I bet a lot of people are picking up on the coast to coast theme now after the movie.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Perfect beach weather at the moment, stay cool :)