I saw the film “Basilicata Coast to Coast” (see link to a youtube trailer at the end of this post) when it came out a few years ago and was utterly charmed by its unlikely storyline and its picaresque characters. I also felt, not for the first time, that Italy does a great job at seducing and fascinating if one has the patience to gaze beyond the clichés — and that, for all the modernity that has changed the course of its recent history, the interwoven cultural subtexts of many centuries ago continue to play peek-a-boo with the present, almost in defiance of our current timeline.
I had never been to the Region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy, before … but now I know that I shall return there, to see more of it. Francis Ford Coppola ‘returned’ there … in a way … to do up an old estate, Palazzo Margherita, in the town of Bernalda, from where his grandfather had emigrated so many years ago; his daughter got married there last year (http://www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com/2012/05/palazzo-margherita-basilicata.html). The Dalai Lama visited recently and Irish Nobel-Prize winner Betty Williams has helped to set up the City of Peace for Children in Scanzano Ionico (http://www.urbanitaly.com/people/scanzano-jonico-city-of-peace.html). And the town of Matera is short-listed to be Europe’s City of Culture for 2019 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matera).
Quite a lot of name dropping for such a region of Italy that does not normally catch the attention of the media. Now, also, that Basilicata has hit oil and that the petrol company ENI stepped in to drill the oil … I can see that we shall be hearing a lot more about Basilicata over the years to come.
Anyway, I recently accompanied my husband on a business trip there and though we slept in Matera, we also visited Bernalda and Grumento Nova. Grumento was our last stop on our way home and it coincided with the night of the football finals, with Italy playing against Spain. Italy, as we all know, lost 4-0 … and the game would have been sheer torture to endure had it not been for the boon of one of the nicest, truly good, meals of my life.
My husband and I and our friends enjoyed this gorgeous meal at an ‘agriturismo’ called Parco Verde (www.agriturismoparcoverde.it) that boasts a large and majestic oak tree that is over 600 years old – beat that! We had booked in advance and were greeted, advised by, looked after and entertained by owner Stefano, whilst brother-in-law Walter and Ivana cranked the food out smoothly in the kitchen. Below you will see photos of the dinner we ate (well, most of it) and I do so hope you too will one day be able to partake of all that this very hospitable inn has to offer, not the least of which is the unsullied countryside close to the lake Pertusillo and the whole of the region of Val d’Agri. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcjVhhGmTzc&feature=related
And here it is served with a sauce made up of salted ricotta and the peppers known as ‘cruschi’, that are to be found only in Basilicata. Their name is pure onomatopoeia for the crunch factor they provide. These peppers are sun dried for two months and then ever-so-briefly deep fried in olive oil and are as crispy as crisps! I can’t tell you how more-ish they are …
Someone ordered these “Spaghetti all’Antica Roma” consisting of olives from Gaeta, walnuts, chilli pepper, lemon, garlic, olive oil, capers and a modern rendition of the Ancient Roman anchovy-based ‘garum’ sauce.
All of them on one plate … as a degustation of sorts.
Their products can be bought online – see their website http://www.agriturismoparcoverde.it/ita/web/nav.asp?nav=34
Trailer for film “Basilicata Coast to Coast” – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLZh1rVLpRo)