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The region of Basilicata in Italy forms the instep of the Italian "boot." It is border by Campania, Calabria, and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is not a large region; it is only 9,987 sq km. The capital of Basilicata is Potenza and Basilicata is divided into two provinces; Potenza and Matera. The population is also rather small at about 611,000 people. Basilicata, or Lucania as it is sometimes called, has little in the way of economic clout. Agriculture plays a major role in the Lucanian economy despite the fact that dry weather and scare underground water supplies make farming difficult. Olives, plums, and cereals are grown, and sheep and goats are raised. There is also some fishing. What little industry there are centers around chemicals and natural gas. About 55% of the population is employed in the service related fields (though many of these positions could also be considered agricultural), about 32% is employed in industry, and about 13% of the work force is in agriculture.
The region of Basilicata had a rough start. One of the first tribes to settle the region was the Lyki from Asia Minor. They were followed by the Greeks sometime between 7 and 8 B.C. As waves of invaders sought to take over the region the local Italic population fought back, even the Romans who were well know for their conquests had a difficult time taking over the region. Islamic, Norman, and Spanish invaders all have taken a stab at controlling Basilicata. Maybe it is the unforgiving terrain of Basilicata that gave the local inhabitants such an advantage over the invaders and allowed them to hold out against the aggressors for such a long time.
Basilicata is a mountainous region. Though most of the mountains are arid and craggy the Lucanian Dolomites are a particularly nice area of the Apennines. This area is highly wooded and has a number of picturesque little lakes. Over all the Basilicatan landscape is rouged and primitive, making it a wonderful place to get back on touch with nature. Basilicata has been victim to many devastating earthquakes over the centuries making it hard for the region to develop into an industrialized area. The effects of such earthquakes can be seen in the local landscape and are fascinating from a geological standpoint.
The charm of Basilicata lies inherently in the numerous small ancient villages decorating the region. There is little in the way of highways and railways in Basilicata because of the mountainous nature of the region. Ceramic and textile handworks are popular in Basilicata and can be found in small family owned shops. Wood carvings are particularly important in the area and many beautiful hand made works can be purchased by tourists.
While there are numerous small festivals and pageants held in the region the most culturally significant is a festival held during May. The May chopping festival shows its pagan roots as a large tree (usually an oak) is chopped down and dragged into the town square. This older tree is "married" to a younger tree (usually a holly) in a ceremony. This festival is common in many of the small towns in Basilicata and is done to insure fertility of the ground and a bounty in the upcoming seasons. A lot of the festivals and pageants of Basilicata demonstrate pagan or Catholic themes; a testament to the regions status as a location trapped in time.
Just because Basilicata is small does not mean that it is boring. Tourists will be fascinating by the stunning architecture and historical art of the regions numerous small churches and medieval castles. The regions greatest resources, its people, are friendly and helpful to travelers. Around every corner is beautiful villa or local that would be a fitting setting for a romance novel. The coastline is covered in some of Italy's finest archeological ruins. In a couple hours you can tour the ruins of an entire ancient civilization as it was at the height of its popularity. The outdoor markets of Basilicata offer tourists a great array of unique hand made items that they normally would not find other regions. Small family owned restaurants offer some of the finest in southern Italian cuisine perfect for those who have a desire for spicy foods rich in complex flavors. Spicy sausages and fresh caught game animals are among some of the regions specialties. Basilicata is the perfect place to immerse oneself into the true Italian experience free from all the trappings of high tourist areas.
By Jamie Sue Austin