Basilicata was one of the first inhabited regions of Italy with findings of human remains that date to the late Paleolithic period. Remains of sabertooth cats and extinct species of elephants and rhinoceroses were also found in the area. Basilicata was one of the first areas conquered by the Romans (just after they conquered Puglia), and when the Empire fell, it was taken over by the Byzantines. They renamed the area basilikos meaning “imperial,” due to the area’s quick and deep-rooted conversion to Christianity.
As a whole, the region of Basilicata is quite poor and rural, but its people, the Lucanians, have maintained a proud cultural tradition. Well known for their hospitality, independence, and festivals, they take their education seriously and push themselves to higher status. In such a rural society, families remain extremely close-knit and often rely on each other in tough times. Nearly every small village in the region has its own festa populare, which provides cultural cohesion.
Basilicata is well known for its spices. The peperone di Senise has become such a renowned food that in 1996 it was granted its own IGP. The pepper is used to flavor many of the region’s peasant dishes. It’s particularly well suited to drying and is typically sold in powder form and added to local cheeses and cured meats. Apart from this, the region is also known for its salsicce lucane, a highly spiced and herbed sausage that is the pork sausage of Basilicata. Many of the area’s traditional dishes are prepared with locally cultivated vegetables and meats.
The area is known for one grape, the Aglianico, and they do it well! There is a sole DOCG, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, and various DOCs through which the region has built its wine reputation. Aglianico from Basilicata can show more intricacies and complexity than the same grape in other regions. Layered with alluring aromas of black currants, fennel, grilled meats, and blackberries, Aglianico del Vulture is an exciting experience.