Carlo Levi summed it all up in the title of his book: “Christ stopped at Eboli”. It was a way of saying that religion, civilisation had never arrived in the southernmost end of the Italian peninsula. It was believed to be a land inhabited only by brigands and outlaws, a land without culture or customs.
And yet, as Levi is at pains to illustrate, nothing could be further from the truth. Although most northern Italian and Europeans were ignorant of Southern Italy, it didn’t mean that life was lacking here. Indeed, on the contrary. This was no forgotten land. It was a continent once savoured by Greeks and lorded over by Lucanians. The Romans marched through it along the Appian way en route to Taranto and Brindisi. It had been settled by Albanians fleeing the Turks in the seventeenth century
Although Carlo Levi’s account of Basilicata in the 1930s is perhaps the most famous, he was not the first European to write about it. In the 19th century, English travellers such a Edward Lear documented the territory in a series of charming sketches and paintings. A few years later Norman Douglas wrote his fascinating travelogue. Travel through Basilicata and Calabria in those days was not without its discomforts, but thankfully these days much has changed for the traveller.
The Romans called it the “Magna Graecia” – or “Great Greece’, but the term was intended to describe the diaspora of Greek people that populated it, and even today, one has the sense that the prevailing culture is Greek, not Roman. The landscape is peppered with Greek remains, the physiology and character of its inhabitants is undoubtedly more Greek than Roman, even the place names and the dialects are more Greek than Latin.
The wine too betrays these origins. The most predominant variety is undoubtedly the Aglianico – derived undisputedly from Ellenico, meaning “Greek”. So why not join us and come discover this most “greek” corner of Italy?