This small and much neglected region stretches across Italy's "instep", incorporating the provinces of potenza and Matera and brief strips of coastline on the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. Basilicata is no longer the desolate, malaria-ridden land of poverty-stricken peasants so powerfully described by Carlo Levi in his novel Christ Stopped at Eboli, but it retains a strong sense of isolation and is still one of Italy's poorest regions.
Basilicata is a mountainous region with large tracts of barren and eroded wasteland, the result of systematic deforestation over the centuries. Government subsidies and industrialisation programmes since the boom of the 1960s have rid Basilicata of disease and have improved communications, but economic progress has been slow. Don't come to Basilicata expecting to find a treasure chest of art, architecture and ancient history. The region's dramatic landscape, particularly the Tyrrhenian coast, and its close connection with the peasant culture of which Levi wrote are its main attractions, along with the strange and fascinating city of Matera.
Basilicata's regional capital is an unlovely place, but if you're travelling in the region you may pass through it. Badly damaged in repeated earthquakes, especially that of 1980, Potenza has lost most of its medieval buildings. Its altitude makes the town cloyingly hot in summer and it can be bitterly cold in winter.
City: Potenza (PZ), Matera (MT).