The Lucanian Dolomites
The lunar landscape of the Lucanian Dolomites (Dolomiti Lucane) is found in the Regional Park of Gallipoli Cognato in the heart of Basilicata. This rocky chain of sandstones has a rugged, craggy appearance which likens them to the mountains of the eastern Alps.
The medieval villages Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano perched on the top of these mountains offer an ideal location for birdwatchers (the inaccessible rock face provides shelter to many birds of prey), rock climbers, trekkers and horse riders as well as mountain bike enthusiasts.
Both villages are members of the Prettiest Villages in Italy Club (I Borghi più belli d’Italia) and the ruins of the fortress walls of a Norman Castle are still visible, with stairs carved into the rock leading to the highest lookout point, dominating over the entire Basento valley.
A magnificent scene awaits those arriving at the village, which appears suddenly – as in a coup de théâtre – set like an amphitheater in the rocky wall, right after emerging from a tunnel dug through the rock, after passing through a spectacular gorge.
Perched on a wall of peaks and pinnacles amid a fantastic rocky landscape, Castelmezzano has preserved its original medieval conformation. It is in fact a cluster of concentric houses set in a terraced rocky hollow, with roofs tiled with sheets of sandstone.
Walking through the historic center one is struck by the unreal presence of rock incorporated in the buildings, the countless steep stairs that intertwine and invite you to climb to the peaks above and enjoy the fabulous scenery of the “Lucanian Dolomites,” whose rugged, craggy appearance likens them to the mountains of the eastern Alps (although here they are of a different rock type, a compact sandstone).
The rock is always there: porticos cut into it connect narrow streets and tiny squares, once a place for meeting and socializing.
Lastly, a visit to the ruins of the Norman-Suevian fortress is a must, with its steep, narrow stairs carved into the rock that lead to the highest point, where the lookout of the military garrison watched over the Basento valley below. To climb these fifty steps with hawks circling overhead is a near-mystical experience.
Castelmezzano was also elected as the World most beautiful (but) unknown place in 2007
The village is up at the end of a road full of hairpin bends, a landscape made of intended and sharp pinnacles, sloping rocks and ridges touching the sky that remind a Dolomite scenery but in the very Southern Italy.
Pietrapertosa is inside the Park of Gallipoli Cognato and Dolomites of Lucania, characterized by the fantastic shapes of sandstone.
Entering the village first you have a boulder to cross for getting to the built-up area; Pietrapertosa appears in the form of an amphitheatre, protected by rocks against which the winds of the north break.
In the village there are several chapels that bear witness to the religious sentiments of this peasant society, at the foot of the castle.
The Norman-Suevian castle, even in ruins but is absolutely worth visiting for the unique landscape of rocks, sky and rooftops that can be enjoyed from its top.
This is a very suggestive place, because full of remembrances like those of Constanza d’Altavilla, mother of Frederick II, who would had sat on the “throne of the queen”, carved into the rock.
Going on in to the silence of Pietrapertosa, you will notice many fine portals: those of the ancient mansions that renew their glories every time someone meets a typical rustication or a mask .