More than any other of the regions of the Italian South, Calabria and Basilicata represent the quintessence of the mezzogiorno. These rural regions were long mismanaged, considered good only for taxation. Respect for authority co-exists with a deep skepticism and apathy. T
he Mezzogiorno, or Italia Meridionale, comprises the regions of Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Apulia and Molise, as well as Abruzzo, which is sometimes considered central Italy. Mezzogiorno, ‘midday’ in Italian, comes from meridies, Latin for 'south'.
Basilicata’s most important site is Matera, famous for its city of cave houses and churches.
This UNESCO World Heritage site, Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera, is the most intact example of a cave dwellers’ settlement in the Mediterranean region.
First inhabited during the Palaeolithic era, excavations of later settlements indicate a number of stages of history. In 1952, the 15,000 remaining Sassi people were evacuated.
Today it is possible to stay in a cave hotel there – entirely renovated and modernized. Also in Matera is Norman Tower of San Mauro Forte, and nearby are the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Metapontum, first settled in the eighth century BC.
The ancient scenery of the area has made it a perfect stand-in for ancient Jerusalem and other primitive places for filmmakers. Motion pictures filmed in Matera include Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004); Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story (2006); The Omen (2006) and many more.