Travel to the “other Italy” – the one without crowds, tourist-trap restaurants, or smog-chugging tour buses. The southern region of Basilicata is one of Italy’s least-known, but is a place of natural splendor, unchanged hill towns, adrenaline-pumping adventure, and alluring art. With outdoor adventure, long-held traditions, gorgeous scenery, abiding faith and pagan rites, and authentic home cooking, Basilicata has it all. It is a place where the path is less traveled and hospitality is sacred. Ancient towns, natural splendor, several millennia of history, and inspiring views everywhere, the region’s rural roots mingle with modern technology, placing a foot in the past and the other in the present. Get the very best of this mysterious and overlooked region by an insider, who gives you the low-down on the highlights of a beautiful and tradition-steeped land. Valerie Fortney guides you through the layers of history, to the wilds and the cities, to the hidden treasures and culinary highlights of the region she calls home. You will find the book contains many more than 52 things, as each entry helps you make the most of your time there. Also included are 10 Restaurants That Are Worth the Trip, a list of worthy hotels and a run-down of the foods you should taste while you are there.
“52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata” is the only comprehensive guidebook in English dedicated solely to Basilicata. Valerie Fortney is a writer and genealogist with more than 20 years’ experience in the travel and tourism industry. La Gazzetta Italiana had the opportunity to learn more about Valerie and her new book.
La Gazzetta (LG): Can you tell readers about your family's Italian roots?
Valerie Fortney (VF): My grandmother's family came to the U.S. from Basilicata during the first decade of the 20th century. My husband and I first visited Basilicata in 2003 with my mom and sister, just to see the two towns where my grandmother’s family came from, with no real knowledge of the place or idea of what we would find. We were blown away by the beauty. I returned a few years later with a couple of cousins and we were shocked to find family members (rather, they found us!) living in one of the towns, Anzi. We returned several times and fell under its spell, and my husband, Bryan, and I moved here 10 years ago.
LG: What inspired you to write “52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata?”
VF: I felt like it was so overlooked, under-represented and under-appreciated, despite all its attractions and beautiful places, that I had been scribbling notes for a book for a while. I also saw that there were no guidebooks on just Basilicata, but rather tied in with other regions, dedicating scant pages to the region, and wanted to fill that void. I talked to my friend Michelle Fabio who wrote “52 Things to See and Do in Calabria” and followed the format and theme she had spearheaded but took it a little further with hotel recommendations and a print edition, too. I took all my notes and experiences and put it all together during the months of lockdown here in Italy, so at least something nice came from those bad and scary months.
The book is a love letter to the region I call home. There is little in English about the region, and much of it is limited to Matera. Do not get me wrong; I love Matera, it is a spectacular city and should absolutely be on anybody's list. But many "hit and run" Matera from Puglia, and do not explore any further, which is such a shame, because Basilicata has a beauty all its own, and the hospitality here is incredible. There really is the "joy of discovery" in these little-known places, and so many things to see if you are willing to break off the normal tourist track. Plus, the food and wine...swoon.
LG: What are you most excited about people to find in your book?
VF: A wealth of information that they may not expect. There is much more than a "mere" listing of sights, with background, history, insights, and more recommendations as the narrative goes along in each chapter. I did not try to cover every town and sight, but hit the highlights with a lot of places, events and quirky festivals that nobody has heard of!
LG: Will you share with our readers some of your favorite Italian traditions?
VF: There are so many! We love being invited to southern Italian weddings, which are blow-out events and so much fun, and gives us warm-fuzzies at being included. Our town's annual bonfire festival for Sant'Antonio is a big deal and unique (included in the book) and a great way to get rid of the mid-winter blues. Basilicata has unique rural-style carnevale celebrations and unusual ancient rites that have been taking place for more than a millennium. Plus, the simple daily traditions of a caffe in the piazza bar where people jockey to offer each other coffees, sometimes comical scenes of "No, I'll pay" and "No, it's my offer" and such, that are symbols of hospitality here. Small gestures of neighbors bringing fruits or vegetables from their gardens, jam they made, salami they cured - we love these long-standing traditions that are still carried on.
“52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney is available at Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble. You can contact Valerie through her website www.mybellabasilicata.com and follow her on social media at Valerie in Italy.