Wine in Basilicata
When we set off for our seaside vacation in southern Italy, I pictured small fishing villages and remote beaches. According to our guidebook, Basilicata and Calabria were the least-visited provinces in Italy. Mussolini had sent political dissidents into exile in Basilicata. Our book promised a beautiful seaside and unspoiled beaches. It also insisted that the roads in the area were the deadliest in Europe, and that the local mafia was still rampant. Accordingly, we expected tourist numbers to be comparatively low.
As we progressed along the crowded Amalfi coast and into the mountains of Basilicata, the roads didn’t get any worse. Also, there were no wild beaches and remote villages in sight. It was more like a large, drowsy resort area, with rows of hotels stretching all the way along the coast. We were exhausted and disillusioned, but determined to make the best of it, so we looked for a place to stay.
My husband found an incredible deal online: a five-star resort had dropped its prices six times, and we could get a room with a view, a private beach area, a pool, and a buffet breakfast for $100. When we got to our dream place next day, it fit the description perfectly. We put on our swimsuits and sprinted to the pool, but as soon as we spread out our towels, the first drops of rain started beating down on the bright umbrellas. After a few minutes, it was a deluge. We huddled in our room (with a view) and watched the rain wash away the dregs of our perfect vacation. The weather report promised rain and thunderstorms for the rest of the week.
There was nothing to do but explore nearby villages—and their wine cellars. Basilicata is famous for the Aglianico grape, on which the local Aglianico del Vulture wines are based. The area around our hotel was full of vineyards. There was even wine at breakfast: the machine that poured juice and water also had buttons for red and white wine. (As we expected, its quality was less remarkable than its presence at the breakfast buffet.)
We tried as many Aglianico wines as we could. We also learned that going to a store and asking for products “della zona” (local) would get you the freshest food: olives, scamorza cheese, and huge loaves of bread. And for dessert, nothing could beat the Aglianico grapes we picked from a nearby vineyard. Maybe our soggy vacation was perfect, after all.