With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, what better way to celebrate than a trip to Italy. Following on from her earlier blogs, Toni Sharp of My Travel Genie looks further into some romantic destinations in Italy.
This is one of the most interesting places we stopped off at on our travels. We headed here after our trip to Volo Dell’Angelo where we met Azeem, a travel writer from London and previously a city lawyer. We had lunch with him in Castelmezzano and told him all about our plans to visit Craco. He actually knew the guide there, William, and made a call to him to arrange a tour for us. He also told us about the city that must not be named which we later passed on our travels!
We met our guide, William, who took us on a private tour of the abandoned town which lies about an hour west of Matera. Once beautiful with a stunning palace at its apex, it now lies empty, crumbling and divides those who still own properties here and government bodies.
You must book on to a tour to visit this site and hard hats are worn at all times and at just £15 per person, this tour is great value. You learn all about the history of the town, its links to the mafia, its brilliant water system and how water came to be its downfall. You get to see empty buildings that used to have purpose such as bakeries which now sit empty but for the large ovens which stopped serving up delicious loaves a long time ago. You learn about the demise of the town, how people fled with the promise of a better life, how traditions fled with the residents, how the lifeline to this town declined and about the hopes of those that still claim ownership to the properties. It is quite sad to visit the palace which sits at the top Craco. Paintings are still visible, beautiful tiled floors still partially there (and partially removed by thieves) and the views from this incredible building are breathtaking.
It’s not a surprise that many advertisers and film makers chose Craco or nearby to shoot their work. It’s peaceful, extensive and brimming with character. It’s also known as the ghost town and there are rumours that it is haunted. Stop in your tracks for a second and you will hear doors/shutters moving, crows crowing and underneath that, an eerie silence of a town still clinging on.
William, a former priest, is fascinating, knowledgeable and was very generous with his time. We made the last visit of the day as the sun was starting to fade, the perfect time to take some fabulous photos.
If you like history this is for you. This attraction is split into three parts: 2 sites of ruins and 1 museum. The first site we came across was a set of Greek columns which once formed part of a temple dating back to the 6th Century (Tavole Palatine). It is located just off the motorway in Metaponto and does not take long to stop off and view. With its picnic benches set behind the bougainvillea lined path which leads to the columns, it’s also a perfect place for lunch stop.
We then headed to the museum to understand more about the sites and it was also a useful place to then discover the exact location of the second site which spans a much larger area and is home to the ruins of several temples, a tomb, agora and a partially reconstructed amphitheatre. Wear good shoes as this area is beautifully wild and full of grasshoppers, a few bees and lizards rather than set in a manicured landscape. This is about 5 minutes away from the museum and first site. It was very quiet when we visited and it was only towards the end when a small coach party arrived we realised just how peaceful this place was!
Allow about 1.5 hours to visit all 3 attractions plus travelling time and the only entry fee payable is for the museum. This is a perfect stopping point on the way to Maratea.
Take a chance (!) on this pretty place on the way back to Bari airport for your flight home. Walk past the locals making the most of every inch of its tiny beach, down the brightest white washed street I have seen, along the water side via a mini fortress and through to the harbour. At the end you will find an archway which leads to a quaint piazza, the perfect place to have your last Italian supper. We chose a typically Italian restaurant and dined on seafood topped off with prosecco and found it was incredibly cheap. We enjoyed ice-cream here from the friendliest ice-cream man before wandering off to explore the surrounding streets. Monopoli was pretty, friendly and the prefect way to end our Italian road trip.