We The Italians | Italian land and nature: Pollino National Park

Italian land and nature: Pollino National Park

Italian land and nature: Pollino National Park

  • WTI Magazine #170 Dec 18, 2023
  • 862

The Basilicata region is crossed by the Pollino mountain range (which extends to Calabria). Here there is a magnificent Park where you can walk among the wild and unspoiled nature, observing animals and birds of prey, and also learn about local customs and traditions, and taste the authentic, traditional recipes.

The Park was established in 1993 with the aim of preserving and protecting some of the rarest plants in the world, such as the Pinus heldreichii. The area is important for the presence of holm-oak, beech and maple trees, beautiful rivers such as the Sinni (this river is 94 kilometers long and it is one of the largest rivers in Basilicata region) and the varied local fauna - tourists have a chance to see wolves, wildcats, squirrels, boars and roe deer (the only surviving species of deer that were once numerous).

The most enchanting activity in the Park is walking through the paths that lead to the tops of DolcedormeSerra di Crispo and Gole del Raganello as well as the one leading to the Pollino Plain. Sport lovers can also practice mountain-bike, horse ridingcanoeing and rafting in the Park. The Pollino Park still keeps its traditional habits and customs and gives to tourists the possibility to have a taste of Basilicata food and wine; every little town is unique and has distinctive features.

Towns and Villages

The following towns can not be missed: Alvera, Castelluccio Inferiore, Castelluccio Superiore, Castelsaraceno, Castronuovo di Sant'Andrea, Carbone, Cersosimo, Chiaromonte, Episcopia, Fardella, Francavilla in Sinni, Latronico, Lauria, Noepoli, Rotonda, San Costantino Albanese, San Giorgio Lucano, San Paolo Albanese, San Severino Lucano, Senise, Teana, Terranova di Pollino, Valsinni, Viggianello. The Albanian minority is an example of an uncontaminated and secret culture within the protected area of the Park: when Ottomans conquered Albania, some Orthodox groups fled the country and settled down in Basilicata. 

This is the case of San Paolo Albanese, a small Albanian village that was founded around the 16th century by a colony who fled from their homeland. Tourists can admire the local arbereshe culture, its traditional costumes and handicrafts as well as the reconstruction of traditional settings, that display the arbereshe way of life.  The typical dress that local people wear nowadays, on the occasion of weddings and celebrations, are still wonderful. While women wear multicoloured clothes, enriched by ribbons and embroideries, men prefer dark colors and hats with colored hatbands.

San Costantino Albanese was probably founded by Albanian and here the citizens still use both the Greek ritual and the ritual in the language of origin. This village is famous both for the production of needlework and stockings and for the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima della Stella. This church dates back to the 17th century and its frescoes are very well preserved. There are many ancient archaeological sites in this extraordinary area. 

Rotonda is located in the centre of the Park, it is a medieval village with important monuments: the ruins of the Castle of Sanseverino-Bisignano, that dates back to the 15th century; the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Consolazione, wjocj goes back to the 16th century and has an impressive works on marble ; the old Cathedral with precious frescoes and plastered decorations; the Amato Palace, with its historical garden, large halls, fireplaces carved in stone and a basement with ancient olive presses.

Every year on June the 13th, Rotonda hosts the celebrations performed in honour of Saint Anthony from Padua: the traditional fir-tree festival. According to the tradition, Saint Anthony stopped in Rotonda near a fir tree for a rest. Some years later,  in the same place, a shepherd who had fallen into a precipice, has recovered by a miracle. From this moment people started to celebrate Saint Anthony by carrying out celebratory activities and religious rituals on this mountain.

Latronico is a small and enchanting village in the Park, that has three wonderful churches: the Church of Saint Egidio, the Church of Saint Michael and the Church of Saint Nicola. This village is well known for the local stone that is extracted from the Alpi Mountain and manufactured according to the traditional local procedure: this is a white alabaster with grey and blue veins, the  so-called “Marble from Latronico.” Calvera is another small village with a particularly interesting Cathedral, that displays paintings date back to the17th and 18th centuries. Interesting is also the visit to the nearby spring of sulphurous water, located in the district “Vallina”.

Castelluccio Inferiore and Superiore are two other small villages of the Pollino Park, in Castelluccio Inferiore you can not miss the Church of Annunziata, with its bell tower covered in multicoloured ceramic tiles, that resembles a Byzantine architecture from the 17th century, while Castelluccio Superiore is famous for its abundant archaeological finds and ruins.

Pinus heldreichii is quite widespread both in Castelsaraceno and on the west side of the Alpi Mountain.  The Murge are very interesting too: these are blocks of rocks hang over the village on whose surface are still admirable the early examples of houses; these houses were in a strategic position, inhabitants could monitor the situation all around and could defend themselves from any invasions.

The country of Viaggianello encompasses many churches and chapels as well as the ruins of a Medieval Castle, located in Sanseverino Bisignano, where Frederick II lived. In this area there is also the Plain of Ruggio and the Belvedere: a karst plateau covered in green grasslands and surrounded by mountains and woods.

Episcopia is a small village rich of monuments, that date back to  Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque period; moreover, this village has a medieval fortress dates back to the 14th century. 

Finally,  San Severino Lucano is located at 1500 meters above sea level, in the heart of the Park. In this area,  many centuries ago, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Pollino was built: a destination for pilgrims deeply rooted in the heart of the local people.

Do not miss

In the area of the Park there are also a famous springs of sulphurous and magnesian water, “The Calda.”  Well known for their curative power since ancient times, and now trasformed into a modern thermal centre, the Terme Lucane come complete with curative, wellness, and cosmetic areas.