Calabria & Basilicata: the fascinating Nature of the deep South - DHBC
Basilicata & Calabria: Discovering Italy’s least-known regions, between splendid mountain scenery, medieval villages and grand canyons
Stunning mountain scenery, grand canyons to rival the best, medieval villages where time stands still – you can find it all in the heart of Italy’s deep south. Often overlooked by large tour operators, Basilicata and Calabria offer a plethora of hidden gems where you can get a taste and feel of the authentic Italy.
You begin your tour in Castelmezzano, in the mountainous inland of the so-called ‘Dolomites’ of Lucania. Considered one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, Castelmezzano has certainly had its fair share of history since being founded by Greek settlers between the 6th and 5th centuries BC: Saracens, Lombards and Normans have all left their marks – and it is the ‘Norman steps’ that you’ll get to climb here, up to a wonderful viewpoint near the village of Pietrapertosa. From here you walk a beautiful path where seven ‘speaking stones’ let you in on the secrets of a local legend. The real highlight here though is your route back to Castelmezzano. Walking through the valley of these ‘southern Dolomites’ is special enough, but the alternative option offers you a chance to see it from a stunning perspective: il Volo dell’Angelo (the Flight of the Angel!).
You continue your tour with a visit to the village of Aliano, home to a museum dedicated to Carlo Levi, the painter/writer famous for his memoirs, ‘Christ stopped at Eboli’ – and you will visit a number of the villages mentioned in this book on your beautiful day walks. If the picturesque landscape and ghost town of Craco seem familiar to you it may be because it has been used in a number of famous films (including The Passion of the Christ and Quantum of Solace).
From here you head to Matera. This city, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, is truly unique with its famous ‘Sassi’ – centuries-old cave dwellings cut out of the cliffs, which housed a large number of the city’s population until just a few decades ago. You will enjoy exploring this amazing architecture, visiting cave churches, castles and art galleries, as you make a wonderful walk out of the city and into the Gravina canyon, through several rural villages downstream.
Your next destination lies further south, on the Ionian coastline. Ancient Greek temples and remote mountain villages are the highlights of your walks through forest and rocky areas, before you visit Civita, a village in the Pollino National Park that dominates the Raganello river gorge. Here you discover the local Albanian culture and take a walk that starts from the scenic village centre and leads into Italy’s very own ‘Grand Canyon’, with stunning viewpoints such as the Devil’s Bridge.
You take in more of the stunning cultural heritage as you move on to Morano Calabro. Your walk here takes you to a Norman castle and through one of the most scenic village centres of southern Italy. Then it’s time for some beautiful nature again: you follow the River Lao down to the coast, with several occasions to descend into its stunning canyon: at the Grotta del Romito, a cave dwelling with some fascinating prehistoric artwork, and at the Byzantine village of Papasidero, where an easy walk brings you to a great sanctuary down at a medieval bridge over the river.
To finish off your tour you have several options: your hotel in Scalea is located on a sandy beach where you can of course relax. But there are many other options for a last great walk or some sightseeing.
Day 1 Arrival at Castelmezzano in Basilicata, the Deep South
Today you travel to the little village of Castelmezzano, about 180 km south of Naples. In the evening you have dinner in one of the region’s best restaurants, on the hotel’s premises.
Hotel in Castelmezzano – 1 dinner included.
Day 2 The ‘Dolomites’ of southern Italy
Today you make a great roundwalk through the beautiful mountain scenery of these southern ‘Dolomites’. After buying your lunch in the village, you first have a stroll through the old village centre of Castelmezzano, and then walk up into the higher mountains, enjoying great views over the whole area. You walk up to the remains of the old Norman castle and perhaps you can climb the impressive ‘Norman steps’, carved into the bare rock, up to a stunning viewpoint. After lunch you walk on to the nearby village of Pietrapertosa, once an important Arab, and later Norman stronghold. To get here you have to cross the river valley, along a beautiful walkway, the ‘path of the seven speaking stones’. A short stroll through the village of Pietrapertosa should of course include the visit to its amazing castle. You have two options for your return to Castelmezzano: you could walk through the valley or take an ‘Angel’s Flight’ (il Volo dell’Angelo – the highest zip wire in the world, offering you the chance to ‘fly’ over 1400m between the two villages). Either way you return, at night you have the time to stroll through the fairy-tale like village and choose the right premises for a nice meal.
Total walking time 4 hours. Walking distance 10 km. Metres up and down 600/350 (with walk back to Castelmezzana: 13 km. Metres up & down: 850)
Hotel in Castelmezzano – 1 breakfast included.
Day 3 Discovering Lucania
A short drive this morning takes you along a panoramic into the real ‘Deep South’, the old Roman ‘Lucania’, now called Basilicata (‘land of the basilicas’). You’ll make a first stop at one of the most characteristic and intriguing places of this virtually undiscovered area: the museum of the writer-painter Carlo Levi (‘Christ stopped at Eboli’) in the village of Aliano. After a nice walk through the intriguing ‘calanchi’, odd-shaped clay hills, you climb up to the village. Here you have time for a coffee and a stroll through the village, after which you could enjoy a stunning presentation at the house where the writer Carlo Levi was ‘confined’ under Fascist rule. You can then have an (optional) lunch nearby at a beautiful farmhouse, and then continue the journey, now to admire the ghost town of ‘Craco’, a completely abandoned village, now used only as a film set. You can make a nice walk through the village and its immediate surroundings. At the end of the afternoon you can enjoy an ‘aperitivo’ in the whitewashed village of Pisticci. Moving on, you then arrive at one of the most extraordinary spots on Earth: Matera, listed as an official World Heritage site by UNESCO (an absolute must-see). This unique city is famous for its ‘Sassi’ (which literally means ‘stones’) style of housing. These dwellings were carved out of the stone sides of the cliffs and tell of a time when there were few options for the poor citizens of the region. The evening walk through the Sassi themselves is stunning.
Total walking time 4 hours. Walking distance 9 km. Metres up and down 300/300. Driving time 3 hours.
Hotel in Matera – 1 breakfast and 1 dinner included.
Day 4 From Matera, city of the ‘Sassi’, to Montescaglioso, through the ‘Grand Canyon’
Following breakfast, you enjoy a walking tour of the ‘Sassi’ area, divided into the more ancient Sasso Caveoso and the more built-up Sasso Barisano areas. The unworldly atmosphere, and the style of housing and life in the cliffs are unique. There’s an impressive series of cave churches, with wonderful medieval frescos, the museum of rural civilisation, the unfinished 15th-century castle, the D’Errico gallery of Neapolitan art in Palazzo Lanfranchi, the Churches of Purgatory, St. Francis of Assisi, S. Lucia and Materdomini, and of course the cathedral, sticking out with its Romanesque silhouette. Tiny streets and backstreet cafes always spring up around each corner and are well worth exploring. During your walk you will discover the unusual architecture of this city step-by-step. Towards the end of the morning you buy picnic supplies and descend into the ‘Gravina’, the canyon beneath Matera. You follow the canyon downstream in a southern direction, through an unworldly landscape, full of cave dwellings (sometimes entire ‘villages’) and cave churches. Lunch can be had in a nice place somewhere along the route. You will (missing verb) on a terrace overlooking the city and the canyon. Towards the end of the afternoon you reach the southern part of the canyon, just below the charming little town of Montescaglioso. From here you can either walk on or take the local bus to Montescaglioso, giving you the chance for a quick visit and an ‘aperitivo’, before you return by bus to Matera. In the evening you have several options for a nice dinner (not included) near to the hotel.
Walking time 5 hours. Walking distance 15 km. Metres up and down 250/150. Driving time 0,5 hours.
Hotel in Matera – 1 breakfast included.
Day 5 From Matera, along the Ionian Coast, and into Calabria
After breakfast you head south, down to the Ionian Sea with its broad sandy beaches. You make a stop near the coast at the Greek Metapontum, to have a look at the remains of the Greek temples, and pay a visit to Sibari, once one of the most affluent (sybaritic) Greek cities. After a visit to the archaeological site you head inland towards the Pollino National Park. Here you will make an easy, but beautiful walk through forest and rocky areas, touching some of the most interesting sites in the area: the villages of San Lorenzo and Cerchiara, and the stunning Madonna degli Armi, a Byzantine church with magnificent views over the Ionian Sea. In the late afternoon you travel on to the beautiful village of Civita, dominating the entrance of the Raganello river gorge. Civita is of Albanian origin, founded by exiles fleeding from the Turkish domination of the Balkans. You will spend the next two nights in Civita, a full immersion in the local ‘Albanian’ culture (and food!). Already tonight you can make a short walk through the historical heart of Civita, learning more about its origins and absorbing the great atmosphere, before dining on fantastic local food in a nearby restaurant.
Total walking time 3,5 hours. Walking distance 9 km. Metres up and down 100/250. Driving time 2 hours.
Hotel in Civita – 1 breakfast and 1 dinner included
Day 6 Civita & the Pollino National Park
Today you’ll start a beautiful 5-hour walk directly from your hotel. First you discover the beautiful village centre, then follow a great walking path past some stunning viewpoints over southern Italy’s ‘Grand Canyon’. Next you start going down into the canyon, following an old mule track, which leads to the so-called ‘Devil’s Bridge’ – a medieval bridge which spans over the narrowest part of the canyon. You can hike a short stretch into the canyon, up to the point where the water fills the whole width of the increasingly narrow gorge. You’ll then make an easy walk, following the riverbed, to a beautifully located agriturismo, where you can enjoy a country lunch (not included). After lunch there is some time for a rest, before walking back to the village which you reach halfway through the afternoon. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure; we strongly recommend you visit the Orthodox Church, the interesting landscape museum, and of course indulge in the local village life. You are free to make your own dinner arrangements tonight.
Total walking time 5 hours. Walking distance 14 km. Metres up and down 300/300.
Hotel in Civita – 1 breakfast included.
Especially in Summer it is strongly recommended to book an extra day (or better two) in order to explore the highlands of the Pollino National Park. Staying in a luxurious ‘Rifugio’ (‘mountain hut’) you are close to some of the best walks in the area. On one day you can make the loop along the highsets summits of the Pollino Massive, Mt. Pollino itself, and the highest top ‘Dolcedorme’ (‘Sweet Sleep’). The next day you can go for another walk discovering the stunning highplains, rural chapels and extraordinary vegetation. Also the small villages of Rotonda and Viggianello (with a real dinosaur in the local museum) are worth a visit.
Rifugio ‘Fasanelli’*** – Pollino. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 dinner.
Day 7 Morano Calabro & the Lao Canyon
This day is a day full of emotions, again a full immersion in local culture, and surrounded by impressive nature. A short drive brings you to Morano Calabro, one of Italy’s most scenic villages. From the castle, with stunning views over the Pollino National Park, you can walk all the way down through its characteristic narrow alleys. You have the time to buy some picnic supplies and a coffee. Then, through the high plains of the Orsomarso Mountains, you travel to the canyon of the River Lao, one of southern Italy’s most spectacular canyons. You can park your car in the beautiful village of Papasidero, and embark on a wonderful walk into the canyon, heading for a pre-historic cave dwelling, the Grotta del Romito, where some amazing drawings can be admired. You can enjoy your picnic lunch, with some time to rest by the river. After returning to Papasidero you travel down to the coast, where you settle in a nice hotel, just outside the village centre of Scalea, on the beautiful sandy beach.
Total walking time 4 hours. Walking distance 11 km. Metres up and down 300/400. Driving time 3 hours.
Hotel in Scalea – 1 breakfast and 1 dinner included
Day 8 The ‘Riviera dei Cedri’ – Scalea, Cirella and the Orsomarso Mountains
For this last day you have several options: of course there is the beautiful beach just below the hotel to enjoy, but we suggest you also do the roundwalk to the pretty old town centre of Scalea. Go for a half-day rafting into the Lao Canyon is also a great option. And you should make the great afternoon walk through the abandoned village of Cirella, overlooking the Mediterranean – perhaps after visiting Santa Maria del Cedro. The real walkers can opt for a great hike into the Orsomarso Mountains, for example into the valley of the Argentino River, starting from the charming village of Orsomarso. Other options include a visit to the abandoned village of Cirella (destroyed by Napoleon) and a visit of Santa Maria del Cedro, the world’s capital of cedar fruit – the fruit from cedars here is perhaps better than anywhere else. This local specialty is the ideal finish to your last evening meal…
Total walking time 4 hours. Walking distance 11 km. Meters up and down 300/400. Driving time 3 hours.
Hotel in Scalea – 1 breakfast included
Extra Days in the Orsomarso Mountains
For hikers it is strongly recommended to book an extra day (or better two) in order to explore the Orsomarso Mountains, perhaps Italy’s last real wilderness. The easy hike into the valley of the Argentino River, starting from the charming village of Orsomarso can easily be done from Scalea. To explore the inland of mountain range, including the summits, Montea, Mula and Pellegrino, but also the wild Fiume Rosa, and the ‘Valley of the Mills’ between Maiera and Grisolia, we have several good accomodations available, close to the best walks in the area. Please note, these are real hikes, for expert walkers only!
Day 9 Departure from Scalea
After breakfast your tour ends. Perhaps you’ll have some time still to dive into the Mediterranean (your hotel is located at the most beautiful beach in Scalea, so going for a swim might be a good option), before travelling back home (or on to your next destination….). The drive back to Naples takes about 2,5-3 hours.
ACCOMMODATION & MEALS
All nights are spent in beautiful hotels (generally 3-star). All rooms have en-suite facilities.
Most accommodations are on a half-board basis. Dinners are included except on days 2, 4 and 6, when you will be free to choose from the wide range of restaurants in the local area for your evening meal.
No picnic lunches are included in the tour price, but these can be prepared for you by the accommodation holders, or materials for picnics can be purchased in the villages which you will be passing through.
Nights 1 & 2: The first two nights are spent in the ancient village of Castelmezzano, in a beautiful new hotel, with an outstanding restaurant.
Nights 3 & 4: These nights are spent in a nice hotel in the centre of the unique city of Matera, at a stone’s throw away from its UNESCO World Heritage ‘Sassi’.
Night 5 & 6: The next two nights are spent in a central hotel in the fascinating ‘Albanian’ village of Civita.
Nights 7 & 8: The last two nights you stay in a nice hotel just outside the village of Scalea, right on a beautiful sandy beach.
UPGRADE/CHANGES IN ACCOMMODATION
It is possible to book an upgrade in some of the places en route. Details and prices on request.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Easy/moderate (2/3): Easy to moderate walks without any real technical difficulties. Remember that you decide the difficulty level of the excursions yourself. In early spring and late autumn temperatures are cooler.
Fitness: All walks are feasible for those with some walking experience and in a good physical condition. During summer you should be able to walk for a few hours a day even in hot dry weather conditions.
- Accommodation: 2 nights Castelmezzano, 2 nights Matera, 2 nights Civita, 2 nights Scalea; all nights in good 3-star hotels (upgrade on request).
- Meals: 7 breakfasts, 4 dinners
- Extensive route notes, with description of the route & tourist information
- Maps at 1 : 25.000 scale (or better)
- 24/7 local assistance
- Departure taxes & Visas
- Travel Insurance
- Drinks and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
- Optional additional tours or activities
- Items of personal nature
- Car rental
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
Arrival: The tour starts in CASTELMEZZANO. You drive to the village from either Naples or Bari airport (daily flights from many European cities), which takes about 2 hours.
Departure: The tour ends in SCALEA after breakfast on day 9. From here you can reach Naples in about 2,5 hours. Alternatively, you can reach the airport of Lamezia Terme, which has international flights to a number of European cities (as well as Toronto), in about 2 hours.
|15 April - 31 July 2018||€ 710||€ 150||€ 150||RESERVE YOUR PLACE|
|01 August - 31 August 2018||€ 730||€ 150||€ 150||RESERVE YOUR PLACE|
|01 September - 15 October 2018||€ 710||€ 150||€ 150||RESERVE YOUR PLACE|
|You can book this tour with a minimum of 1 person.|
|There are a very limited number of available places on these dates. Immediate booking is recommended.|
|Availability and prices on request.|
- Prices are per person and based on the season within which the first night of the tour falls.
- Prices are based on 2 people sharing double or twin accommodation. Single rooms (double rooms – single) are available on most trips however the supplements listed apply.
- If you are travelling alone then on some trips (which include taxi transfers) a ‘Solo Traveller Supplement’ will be applied instead of the normal single supplement.
- Prices are expressed in Euro’s. There will never be a currency surcharge.
- Actual exchange rates: GB £ - US $ - CAN $ - CHF - DKK - SEK - NOK - Other currencies.
It is possible to extend your tour with a few days in Naples, Bari, or towns elsewhere in the Cilento, Basilicata or Calabria. Details and prices on request.
It is possible to book an upgrade in some of the places en route. Details and prices on request.