There is an internal area of Basilicata known as Calanchi: it’s an arid area with ancient and quiet roads, beautiful to ride by bicycle: that’s why we had a scouting in this part for a new bike tour, the Calanchi Route, to ride with our Gravel Road Bikes.

 

Calanchi area, Basilicata

Calanchi area, Basilicata

 

Our experience through the Calanchi Route

Our scouting touched several places to offer you the best cycling experience in this area of Basilicata, so quite and different from others. Ancient castle ruins, ghost towns, old districts, important churches and finally the gate to the Ionian coast: that’s what is waiting for you enjoying this tour.

The places where we stopped were:

  • Ferrandina
  • Craco
  • Montalbano Jonico
  • Tursi
  • Policoro

Let’s start our scouting tour.

 

Ferrandina and the Uggiano castle

We started the Calanchi Route from Ferrandina, 30 km far from Matera.

This town was founded in 1490 by Federico of Aragon, who gave the town the name of his father, King Ferrante or Ferrantino, to welcome all the survivors of Uggiano, an ancient town destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1456: you can see the ruins of Uggiano and its castle by having a look at one of the rolling hills surrounding Ferrandina.

The same hills that, along the bicycle route, can be admired covered by numerous olive groves which give the excellent local olive oil.

 

Our teammate Adriano in the countryside close to Ferrandina Our teammate Adriano in the countryside close to Ferrandina

 

A countryman in an olive groves field A countryman in an olive groves field

 

A biker  in a countryside close to Ferrandina

A biker in a countryside close to Ferrandina

 

Craco, the ghost town

Going down the slope and reaching a flat stretch, the crops become mainly orchards in a succession that leaves more and more space to the lunar landscape of the Calanchi.

It seems to be almost in a surreal dimension, between arid clay hills that are washed away by the erosion of atmospheric agents and become almost natural pinnacles.

Once in the valley we followed the street to reach Craco, the ghost town. From the bottom of the valley you can see its profile with its Norman tower. Craco is completely uninhabited due to a landslide that forced the local population to move to the valley in 1960s.

 

Craco, the ghost town Craco, the ghost town

 

Inside Craco, the ghost town Inside Craco, the ghost town

 

Inside Craco, the ghost town Inside Craco, the ghost town

 

Another view of Craco, the ghost town Another view of Craco, the ghost town

 

Montalbano Jonico and Tursi, with its Rabatana district and S. Maria d’Anglona Church

Continuing over the old street called SS 103, we first reached the vineyards around Montalbano Jonico, then crossed the Agri Valley towards Tursi. Here there is the watershed that divides the valley of the Agri from Sinni Valley, on the right: here we started to see the peaks of the Pollino National Park on the horizon.

The silence, broken by the verses of the kites is a must of these places; fields planted with wheat, olive groves and white clays make the route wonderful: it seems to cycle suspended in time!

When we reachead Tursi we met a fork that, uphill, leaded to the ancient district of Rabatana, whose name recalls its ancient origins. We have also had a visit to the Sanctuary of S. Maria d’Anglona (XI – XII century), a national monument since 1931, among the most important in Basilicata. Its Romanesque portal and the frescoed interiors give this church pleasant and imposing appearance. The church is located on the plateau of the hill where Pandosia and Anglona flourished, in the territory of Tursi.

The view from the hill ranges from the Ionian coast to the mountains of the Pollino National Park.

 

vineyards around Montalbano Jonico vineyards around Montalbano Jonico

 

Vineyards around Montalbano Jonico Vineyards around Montalbano Jonico

 

A resort around Montalbano Jonico A resort around Montalbano Jonico

 

Policoro, the gate to the Ionian sea

Then we leaved Tursi by following Via Roma to go to Policoro just following the road signs for Policoro / S. Maria di Anglona. Policoro was an important Greek colony called Herakleia; today it is one of the most important touristic town on the Ionian coast.

This town also hosts the National Museum of Siritide and and its Archaeological Park, located near the ancient Siris-Herakleia. The museum is devoted to the Greek colonies of Siris (VII-VI century B.C.) and Herakleia (V century B.C. – A.D. I-II century) and to the Italic world of the Agri and Sinni valleys.