Due estremi

by Lorenzo Piccoli

Stefania and I were not sure whether we could hit all the locations we had planned to visit when we first drafted our road trip two weeks ago. We tried to do as much as we could on our way back, driving for more than 1000km in two days and one night. It was exhausting, but worth it.

Leaving Puglia was annoying: driving 50km from Portoselvaggio to Taranto took almost two hours just because the road connections are terribly bad. While in the car I was thinking that a society that cannot govern its own time – because all the connections are down: from internet to phone, from roads to railways – is never going to achieve any progress.

We got to Basilicata in the afternoon and we stopped in Matera, as recommended by Sara. The town lies athwart a small canyon and it has gained international fame for its ancient town, the Sassi. These are suspected to be some of the first human settlements in Italy and were used as houses dug into the calcareous rock itself. Many of these houses are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. What is most outstanding is that people were living here until the 1960s/1970s, when the the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. The Sassi were the location of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).

Driving through Basilicata in the night was awesome, though hard. The region is surprisingly full of mountains, which are known as the little sisters of the mountains we have in Trentino. Ours are called Dolomiti, these are called Dolomiti Lucane. It is amazing to see such high mountains just a few kilometers away from the sea. Also, Basilicata is historically interesting for the phenomenon of brigandage, whereby the Church encouraged the local people to rise up against the nobility and the new Italian State. For all these reasons I was fascinated by the region and I am planning to go back for a hike, perhaps to visit Manuel who’s from there. Anyway. I could not fully enjoy the moment as I was sick and we almost hit an abandoned dog on the street.

Abandoned dogs. This was struck me when I came to Salerno eight years ago with my family and once again I was negatively impressed by the number of dogs roaming freely for the streets of Salerno when I got there with Stefania at 10 in the evening. It is a disgrace locals are not able to deal with this problem.

We slept in a small camping near Salerno as the next day we wanted to visit the Reggia di Caserta. The Reggia was constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples and it was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. There are 1200 rooms in the palace, which is a notable example of luxury and sense of grandness. But what was most impressive to us was the garden: huge and varied, it streched for 120 ha, which is quite a lot.

A proper visit to the Reggia and the Park would have taken one entire day. We had only four hours, as we wanted to be back in Trento that very day. We managed to drive all the way to Florence, where we stopped to get Gianluca on the car, and drove to Trento where we arrived around midnight. Gianluca will be with me for the next few days and we are planning a few hikes.