Who: Some of the Lucania women
A tour crossing tens of artcraft and food producers
Just follow the rivers Agri, Sinni, Basento and Bradano, and go from the Madonne mountains to the fantastic highlands and canyons of the "Murge" of Sant'Oronzo, to the green citrus plains of Metapontino, to the reed forests of the Bosco Pantano Nature Reserve at Policoro, to the pinnacles of the Aliano calanchi and the "Sassi" , the rocks of Matera.
Start in Val d'Agri, where Laura Aulicino and Isabella Abate know the territory inch by inch, and Francesca Leggeri welcomes you at the at the charming L'Agriturismo Il Querceto. They recommend the Roman city of Grumentum and monasteries like Santa Maria di Orsoleo, plus a trek among the beech trees and springs of the Volturino and Viggiano mountains. Make a stop in Sarconi (famous for the beans of this name, a protected designation of origin), at "Per boschi e contrade", an award-winning workshop for its 51 types of jam and preserves, a romantic garden, huge fruit orchards, as described by Paola and Vittoria Scote: "passed down from mother to daughter with passion and love". Don't miss: the Fasoldò bean soup, chutneys made of apples, onions, peppers, apricots, pumpkin and blackberries.
Returning up the Sinni river, blue as the Ionian Sea into which it flows, toward the badlands, we reach the realm of Maria, Paola and Giulia Pitrelli. Here we find a group of restored houses for guest accommodation, but more importantly it's been a women's farm since the 17th century, because, according to Maria, "women have different passions and feelings". Today the Azienda Agricola Pitrelli takes guests to the farmers' museum and to discover medicinal herbs; shows them fabric dyeing, and the theater for people with minor disabilities. It is a producer of extra virgin olive oil, jams, artichokes and zucchini in oil. And together with the nearby farms they deliver big baskets crammed with fruit and vegetable preserves, to the local markets and the city shops.
When visitors want to know more about this land, the Pitrelli ladies call in Giuseppina Crupi, archaeologist at the Museum of Siritide di Policoro and one of the founders of the Andriace Archeo Park, which lays on a real "grand tour" of the area called Magna Grecia. "The Lucania – Giuseppina explains – is not only Matera, but is found in the ancient remains, where goddesses of earth and fertility are still present, in temples, on vases and votive offerings; in the villages along its once navigable rivers, where sometimes stories of women are revived." Like at Valsinni, in the Castle of Isabella Morra, the 16th century poet who returns during the summer shows and guided tours, given by the talented entertainer Carmen Chierico, who recites Isabella's verses and tells stories about village life.
So, from valley to valley on inland roads between wheat fields and gullies, you have to see Tursi, with its ancient Arabic quarter of Rabatana, the sanctuary of Anglona, the badlands of Aliano, where Carlo Levi was confined (of "Christ Stopped at Eboli" fame), one of the many "literary parks" to be found in Lucania.
Up to Matera with its rock-cut architecture and its stone-houses, where for centuries women have been responsible for children, home, animals and the rural economy.
And as the city of stones is a hive of creative energy, here's how to preserve and renovate an art: "a tourist cannot leave Matera without discovering our bread" - explains Patrizia Perrone - "which has stayed the same since the time it came in enormous sourdough slabs, with a thick crust and soft inside, made to last for days in peasants' storage baskets." Patrizia has been dedicated to rediscovering family traditions, founding a consortium that has been awarded a PGI nomination, creating links between local farmers, certified mills and silos. Now, at Panificio Perrone, you can enjoy taralli, pastries, cookies, teaching activities, training courses and Slow Food events.
A landmark of the city is the Casa Netural, a space that appeals to travelers mums and dads with babies: "Coworking families" offers wi-fi, a soft room complete with games, changing tables, high chairs and baby holders for hire. Not to be missed, Mariella Stella's directions, one of the founders of this "incubator of dreams": make sure to taste the foodie dishes like beans and chicory at La Talpa, or the cook's tarts. Onward to browse in women's shops, starting with the workshop where Lela Campitelli makes jewelry-sculpture from silver, wood and stone, in the heart of the Sasso Cavernoso area; she will tell you to continue to the precious vases, terracotta pieces and whistles fashioned by Maria Bruna Festa at "Ceramiche D'arte", to the precious yarns of Angela Ramundo at "Crea che ti ricrea", Maristella Darretta's tufo at "Arte decorativa", and Bernadette Scalcione's fabrics and leather.
AZIENDA AGRICOLA PITRELLI
Via La Luna 2
Nova Siri (MT)
BOSCHI E CONTRADE
Contrada Cava, 6
Tel-Fax 0975 – 66448
Piazza Duomo, Recinto Annunziata Vecchia, 15
Tel: +39 0835 044681
Via Nazionale 52
Via B. Buozzi,89