Basilicata & Calabria
A wonderful introduction to the unspoilt mountains and hills of the ‘toe and instep’ of Southern Italy - much favoured by ancient colonists though little-visited by tourists today. Journeying along the coast, we travel through more than 2000 years of an immemorial story.
Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Norman and Spanish invaders not only ‘came and conquered’ but stayed – producing cities, castles and churches from the Classical period onwards. This abundance of sites includes some real treasures: the Codex Purpureus at Rossano, the Byzantine church at Stilo and the 5th century BC Greek bronze warriors rescued from the sea at Riace – two of the finest sculptures to have survived from the Greek world.
- Italy beyond the tourist trail, with many unexpected treasures: Byzantine Stilo and the birthplace of Horace
- The World Heritage Site of Matera; a maze of rock-cut cave dwellings occupied for up to 9000 years
- The magnificent Riace Bronzes, now restored to their former glory at Reggio Di Calabria
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We fly to Bari and transfer to Matera.
We explore the extraordinary Sassi of Matera, a network of rock-cut cave dwellings and later Byzantine chapels. We enjoy panoramic views as we drive into the Belvedere areas to explore Sassi further. This afternoon we have some free time for independent wandering.
Early start to see the heartland of Norman Italy at Venosa, birthplace of the Roman lyric poet, Horace, and a major Medieval centre. We visit the Archaeological Museum, housed in a Spanish castle and the unfinished Norman Cathedral, La Trinità. After lunch we continue to Melfi, the first Norman capital in southern Italy, with a fine surviving castle and cathedral.
Drive across the instep of Italy and along the coast road to Crotone via the museum and excavations at the site of ancient Sybaris; once renowned for its easy, luxurious living. Continue to the hilltop town of Rossano, which produced two of Italy’s greatest religious treasures. The first is a small fresco of the 8th century AD; the second, and rarer, is the Codex Purpureus, a Greek evangeliary with letters from St Eusebius of Caesarea and the Ten Tables of Law from the 6th century AD.
We visit the museum and old town at Crotone originally founded by the Greeks in the 5th century BC, and later the residence of Pythagoras. Afternoon at the well-preserved hill town with Norman and Spanish castle and cathedral at Santa Severina.
A stop off at the sanctuary of Hera Lacinia before heading to Le Castella to see the remains of the impressive fortress. Drive to the Norman basilica and Roman excavations at Roccelletta di Borgia that have produced some sublime examples of Roman statuary, which can now be seen in the new on-site museum. Drive south down the coast to the lovely hill town of Stilo, with its gem of a Byzantine cross-in-square church.
We visit another beautiful Medieval hilltown, Gerace, with magnificent panorama of the coast and sea from its belvedere. We explore the town on foot including the Spanish Cathedral, the largest religious building in Calabria, reconsecrated in the presence of Frederick II. Our final stops today are to the ruins and site museum of the ancient site of Locri, one of the principal cities of Magna Grecia.
Drive through the mountains, past the attractive town of Scilla, home of the legendary sea monster which once terrorised ancient sailors.
Our trip culminates with special access to the famous Riace Bronzes, wonderfully restored at Reggio di Calabria, believed to have been washed overboard from a trading vessel and rescued thousands of years later after a diver saw an arm reaching from the seabed. The two complete statues are now displayed to great effect.
We return home today.
We arrive into Bari airport from London and transfer to Matera. Later we visit the Carlo Levi Museum in the Palazzo Lanfranchi, home to many of the artist’s works.
Our day begins with an exploration of the extraordinary Sassi of Matera, a network of phenomenal rock-cut cave dwellings and later Byzantine chapels. This is truly a spectacular town with such rich history. We enjoy panoramic views of the prehistoric Medieval city as we drive to the Belvedere viewpoint. This afternoon we have some free time for independent wandering, or take the time to unwind at a local café.
We have an early start this morning to see the heartland of Norman Italy at Venosa, birthplace of the Roman lyric poet Horace and a major Medieval centre. We visit La Trinitá, the unfinished Norman church and burial place of Norman Kings. We will also explore the adjacent archaeological park before moving on to the archaeological museum, housed within Aragonese Castle. After lunch we continue to Melfi, situated at the foot of Mount Vulture and the first Norman capital in Southern Italy. We then return to Matera.
We drive across the instep of Italy and along the coast road to Crotone, via the museum and excavations at the site of ancient Sybaris - once renowned for its easy luxurious living. We continue to the hilltop town of Rossano which produced two of Italy’s greatest religious treasures. The first being a small fresco from the 8th century AD and the second is the Codex Purpureus, a Greek evangeliary.
We visit the Archaeological Museum, the old town of Crotone and the residence of Pythagoras. We then make a short drive to the remaining column of Hera Lacinia. Our afternoon is spent exploring the well-preserved hilltown of Santa Severina. Here we will visit the castle and baptistery.
We head to Le Castella and on to the Norman basilica of Roccelletta di Borgia. We then continue South down the coast to the hill town of Stilo, with its Byzantine cross-in-square church, before making our way to our hotel in Roccella Ionica.
A visit to the medieval hill-top town of Gerace for panoramic views and exploring the town and Spanish Cathedral. After lunch, we continue to the ancient site of Locri.
Driving through the mountains and past the town of Scilla to Reggio di Calabria, with special access to the restored Riace Bronzes, in the National Magna Grecian Museum.
We transfer to the airport for our flight back to London.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
3 nights set in an 18th century residence of Domenico Ridola
2 nights with views of the Crotone sea
2 nights stay a stone’s throw from the Ionian sea
1 night stay where you will be close to the sea front of Reggio
Guide Lecturer’s Choice
George Gissing (with Pierre Coustillas): By the Ionian Sea. Notes of a Ramble in Southern Italy. (2003). Signal Books
A recent republication of Gissing’s original of 2001. By turns lyrical and melancholic, this is a moving account of a journey fraught with discomfort, danger and illness to visit tombs and temples, museums and cathedrals in the days when such travel was not undertaken lightly. A classic of travel literature.
It may also be downloaded free to Kindle ebook readers from the Amazon website.
Norman Douglas: Old Calabria. 2010. Tauris Parke paperbacks. The latest edition of Douglas’s 1915 publication. An “unrepentant pagan” provides a lively and exuberant account of his journey from the Gargano to the Aspromonte. This book may also be downloaded free in the Kindle format, from www.gutenberg.org
Paul Blanchard: Blue Guide. Southern Italy. 2007 . A & C Black 11th edition . In default of a good modern academic survey in English of the archaeology of Southern Italy, this is the most useful and accessible general guide. It is supported by a fair number of maps and plans, and provides some helpful introductory surveys by guest writers of the history, art, architecture, geology and travel writers of the South of Italy.
Campania e Basilicata. 2009. Touring Club Italiano in the Grande Carta Stradale series at 1:200,000. A pocket-sized route and topographical map in an established series, which also marks most of the archaeological sites. This map can usually be found in the larger British booksellers, as well as in Italy.
Calabria. 2009. Touring Club Italiano. The partner map in the same series.
History and Archaeology
G.Bradley: Ancient Italy: Regions without Boundaries. 2007. Exeter University Press. Essays on communities other than the Greeks and Romans, structured regionally, to give some balance to the usual classical emphasis.
G. Pugliese Carrabelle (ed): The Greek World. Art and Civilisation in Magna Graecia and Sicily. 1996. Rizzoli, New York. To be found in good academic libraries, this massive compilation of articles by leading scholars on the prehistory and history of Greek settlement in the West is a valuable source of reference on many aspects of Greek civilisation.
G. Ceserani: Italy’s Lost Greece; Magna Graecia and the Making of Modern Archaeology ( Greeks Overseas). 2012. Oxford University Press. An interesting survey of the work and ideas of past archaeologists in Magna Graecia.
N. Christie: From Constantine to Charlemagne. An Archaeology of Italy AD 300 - 800. Ashgate Publications. An authoritative survey of the history and archaeology of “Dark Age” Italy that helps to put the South into context.
E. Greco: Magna Grecia. 1995. Guida Archaeologica Laterza. In a well-respected series, this is the most thorough account of the Greek and Roman archaeology of Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria. It is written in Italian, but is well illustrated by plans and maps.
M. Guido: Southern Italy, an archaeological guide to the main prehistoric, Greek and Roman sites. 1972. Faber & Faber. Now dated, this is still a useful handbook for visitors and is widely available in libraries.
G A Loud: The Age of Robert Guiscard. Southern Italy and the Norman Conquest. 2000. Addison
Wesley Press. A modern, wide-ranging and engaging account of the “freebooting Normans “ in the South.
Peter Gunn: The Companion Guide to Southern Italy. 1969. Collins. A Baedeker-style guidebook written by a knowledgeable enthusiast, and worth seeking out for its value now as a period piece.
Paul Holberton: South Italy. A Traveller’s Guide. 1992. John Murray. A sympathetic account of the places and buildings that caught the eye of an art historian. Idiosyncratic and interesti
H V Morton:A Traveller in Southern Italy. 1969. Methuen. A readable and erudite book, if a little dry at times.
Travel Writing worth reading
E.Clay ( ed): Ramage in Southern Italy. Being “The Nooks and Byways of Italy: Wanderings in Search of its ancient remains and modern superstitions.” 1965. Longmans. An abridgement and selection from a very entertaining journal of a young man’s adventures in the deep south in the early Nineteenth century. The title might have been written for Andante….
John Keahey : A Sweet and Glorious Land. Revisiting the Ionian Sea. 1996. St Martins Press. An American journalist’s account of his recent travels in the footsteps of Gissing, which turns into an intriguing story of southern Italy and its people.
Michael Montgomery: Lear’s Italy: in the footsteps of Edward Lear. 2005. Cadogan. A clever and interesting account of Edward Lear’s life and travels in Italy, which offers frequent quotation from Lear’s often inaccessible Journals of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria 1852 written in their own inimitable style.