On my way from the Salento to Basilicata I did also stop at Taranto, also known as the „Spartan City“ as it was the only colony ever founded by Sparta, in 706 BC. „The City of Two Seas“ is located on a spit of land that divides the open sea connected by an artifical canal.
It´s also the city of two faces as there is the modern Taranto and the old town, with the Aragonese Castle, the Cathedral and many other monuments.
After all those beaches and olive hains in Salento I´m back in Basilicata – green and brown hills with little towns on top. I´m on my way to Maratea, Basilicatas one and only town on the Tyrrhenian coast. As I´ve already been to the sassi of Matera last year, I wanted to visit some other towns and make a longer stop at Craco. At least that was the plan!
But again I had miscalculated how long it would take me to drive there and there might been some minor detours. But at last I arrived at the ghosttown of Craco – too late to join one of the guided tours around the city but at least I catched a glimpse of it from the outside. I´ll be back!
Craco was first mentioned around 1060 in a document, but there are traces of human settlements back to 800 – 900 BC. The oldest still standing building is a Norman tower built about 1040.
Throughout the 16th century the population in Craco grew immensly to 2590 inhabitants. It was mostly farmers but also artisants, some professionals (doctors, notaries), clergies and 18 monks in the monastery of St. Peter, built in 1630.
Towards the end of the 19th century the city limits had reached its maximum expansion. There were several palaces in various parts of the town, as well as public buildings like the town hall, schools, a cinema and shops.
The area has always been affected by landslides, in 1600, 1805, 1857, 1870 and 1933. Craco was built on a hill of „variegated clay“ which are instable. Even so the crachesi never abandoned their town until 1963, when the landslide was mainly caused by leakages of the pipe network and other consequences of the urban expansion. From 1960 to 1980 more than half of the citizens of Craco left for Northern Italy and abroad. After an earthquake in 1980, the ancient site of Craco was completely abandoned.
Because of its unique landscape and beautiful setting many movies have been shot in and around Craco: „La Lupa“, „Christ stopped at Eboli“, „Saving Grace“, „Quantum of Solace“, „Wonder Woman“ and many more.
In 2010 Craco Vecchia was named to the World Monuments Fund Watch List and 2015 (?) declared a „Parco Museale Scenografico“ (kind of an open air museum) and it is no longer possible to visit the town on ones own. There are daily guided tours in italian and english starting from 10am till sunset. For more information have a look at their website: Craco card (museum) The information center is really easy to find and I definately will take one next time!
On my way from Lecce to Matino I also stopped in Otranto, a harbour town in the east of the Salento. About 5 kilometers away from Otranto a lighthouse „Faro della Palascìa“ marks the most easterly point of the Italian mainland. Beside the little harbour and lovely old city there is (of course) a castle as the city was already an important port even in the roman times.
On March 28th 1997 an Albanian boat filled with refugees sank after a collision with an Italian naval vessel and at least 57 Albanians drowned. Greek artist Costas Varotsos transformed parts of the sunken ship to this monument in the harbour of Otranto.
Almost 3000 people drowned in 2016 on their way to Europe – please support the work of private vessels like the Sea Watch saving hundreds of lifes every day! #safepassages
The heel of Italy lies between the Adriatic and Ionian coasts – or in other words: endless rows of olive trees lie between sandy beaches and tall cliffs.
Make a stop at Grotta Verde at the Marina di Andrano – it´s really easy to find and so amazing to be able to swim into this grotta. Don´t forget your snorkeling equioment and if you don´t have any, don´t worry the little bar at the parking sells some stuff.
There are a lot of beach clubs, as almost everywhere else in Italy, but also some beautiful hidden beaches, even some that are reachable from the street – just watch out if some cars are parked at the costal road. That´s always a good sign!
I stayed in Matino, a little town quite in the middle of the Salento and the perfect spot to explore the heel from all sides – it´s just a nice and easy drive around. With many great places to stop, take a sip or just have some caffè.
What´s been the trulli in the Valle d`Itria seem to be towers in Salento – they are everywhere on the coast, some of them turned into restaurants and also a lot of round stone buidlings of different hights.
Being at the most southern point of my journey: Santa Maria di Leuca
I had to say good bye to the beautiful Valle d´Itria and continue my journey down south to the Salento – but I wouldn´t wanna miss Lecce on my way down. Actually I also stopped in Brindisis for some caffè with my fellow photographer Alessandra.
Lecce, also known as the „Florence of the South“, because of its baroque architecture, is one of the bigger towns in Puglia and a university town. Lots and lots of little cafés, shops and restaurants – and of course all those stunning monuments.
I parked more or less by accident next to the city center and to the tourist information, which was not only open, but also helped with maps and more infornation – Lecce seems to be more than ready for tourists!
Conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC it was under Roman rules on and off for the next centuries.
The County of Lecce was one of the largest and most importants fiefs in the Kingdom of Sicily from 1053 to 1463, when it was annexed directly to the crown. From the 15th century, Lecce was one of the most important cities of southern Italy, and, starting in 1630, it was enriched with precious Baroque monuments. (Wikipedia)
Indeed, so distinctive is Lecce’s architecture that it has acquired its own moniker, barocco leccese (Lecce baroque), an expressive and hugely decorative incarnation of the genre replete with gargoyles, asparagus columns and cavorting gremlins. Swooning 18th-century traveller Thomas Ashe thought it ‚the most beautiful city in Italy‘, but the less-impressed Marchese Grimaldi said the facade of Basilica di Santa Croce made him think a lunatic was having a nightmare. (Loneyplanet)