A Quick Guide To Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa, Italy
A Quick Guide To Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa, Italy was originally published in April 2020
Nestled in the jagged Dolomiti Lucane peaks in the Potenza Province of Southern Italy’s little-visited Basilicata Region sit the beautiful side-by-side village of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa. While most foreign tourists seem to cluster around, throwing elbows for the perfect shot at the famous sites in Rome, Venice, Florence, and Cinque Terre, my true attraction to Italy lie in its southern regions of Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily.
Maybe it’s that my genetics tie me to the south of Italy, or that the culture and food make me think of my childhood and the people I grew up around. But Castelmazzano goes beyond my southern comforts- it’s also scenically speaking, the most beautiful village I’ve stumbled upon in Italy. Located at roughly 900 meters above sea level in a range of eroded karst peaks, Castelmezzano also feeds into my love for wild mountain sceneries.
Planning to hit the road? Check out my Southern Italy Road Trip Itinerary
The History Of Castelmezzano
Despite being a pretty off-beat place in Italy, Castelmezzano has been around for eons. The origins of the village date back to the 6th century BC during some of the first waves of colonization in Southern Italy. Hellenic people began colonizing the Basento Valley and eventually founded a village called Maudoro.
By the 10th century, the population of Maudoro was forced to flee into the mountains during the Saracen (Arab invasions) of Southern Italy. Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa were the locations selected for the new village site because of their steep and jagged peaks from which the inhabitants could roll boulders down onto any attempted invaders.
Centuries later Castelmezzano would go on to be occupied by the Lombards, the Normans, and the Aragonese between the 11th and 16th centuries. By the 1800s, Southern Italy lacked any form of formal or effective government, so bandits had the rule of the land.
During this time of Brigandage in Southern Italy the wealthy class would hire young men to retrieve stolen property and negotiate with the thieves- typically a pardon in exchange for the stolen items or goods. This period is largely thought of as the origins of the Mafia. This was the regular lay of the land in Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Campania, and Abruzzo.
During this time much of the then population of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa emigrated outside of Italy altogether, as the area was largely affected by the Brigandage of Southern Italy as it made for great hiding spots for bandits thanks to the rocks and vegetation.
Things To Do In Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa
Hiking Around Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa
There are numerous treks in the area surrounding Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa, some that even continue on into the Basento Valley and connect to other areas of Gallipoli-Cognato National Park. Map.me has many of the trails marked on the app, or check out this website for some trekking routes in the Basilicata region including Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa (the Basilicata section is only in Italian, but you can use Google Translate to decipher the information.
Santa Maria dell’Olmo Church
The Romanesque facade of Santa Maria dell’Olmo Church is worth a visit as you make your way around Castelmezzano. The church also features a 14th century wooden statue of Madonna with child.
Santa Maria dell’Olmo is located in the heart of Castelmezzano in Piazze Emilio Caizzo. Just a short walk away the Madonna dell’Annunziata Chapel is also worth a visit.
Exploring Campania too? Make sure and visit the Amalfi Coast
Following the occupation of Castelmezzano by the Lombards, the Normans would come next, building the Castrum Medianum (meaning the middle castle) to guard the area between Pietrapertosa and Brindisi Montagna. You can visit a portion of the Castrum Medianum, which offers amazing views of the surrounding areas.
Il Vollo Dell’Angelo (The Flight Of The Angel)
Adventure junkies can rejoice- you can take a zipline between Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano on the Il Vollo Dell’Angelo (translating out to The Flight of The Angel). Click here to visit the official website and to purchase tickets.
Planning to explore more of Basilicata? Don’t miss the ancient cave city of Matera
On your visit to Pietrapertosa, a visit to the Castello Saraceno (also called Castello di Pietrapertosa) located in the Old Quarter, is worth a visit to explore its crumbling ruins and views of the landscapes all around. The castle dates back to the 11th century.
Madre di San Giacomo Church
Madre di San Giacomo Church sits right in the heart of Pietrapertosa. The church is noted for its 14-16th century frescos.
Following sheep trails, stone steps and bridges down from Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa will allow for you to hike down and explore the Caperrino Valley below.
Starting your journey from Naples? Check out my Naples Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa
How To Get To Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa
From the E45 highway that connects Naples and San Villa San Giovanni and continues onward to Messina, Sicily, you’ll take the E 847 exit toward Sicignano, Potenza, and Matera. From the E 847, you’ll eventually take exit Albano toward Albano and Castelmezzano. From here you’ll take Santa Croce Camastra and then Via S. Croce to Castelmezzano.
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