In the heart of the Lucanian Apennines

After travelling through very high mountains, thick woods and beautiful valleys, we find woods once more in the valley beneath Trivigno, Anzi, Laurenzana and Albano di Lucania. Here we also find the picturesque lake of Ponte Fontanelle, known also as the reservoir of Camastra. From here, we go towards the Regional Park of Gallipoli Cognato – Small Lucanian Dolomites, the area where natural beauty meets sheer cliffs with the stone cathedrals of the Lucanian Dolomites, whose origins date back to the Miocene, 15 million years ago. In this area nature seems to have drawn the landscape, modelling the rock to make fantastic and realistic pictures and shapes. There are sculptures called the golden eagle, the anvil, the big mother and the owl, 1,000m above sea level.

It is thanks to the strength of these two mountains and the beauty and richness of their view that tourism has become part of a local economy mainly based on agriculture and, since ancient times, on sheep and goat breeding. These places are made even more picturesque by the simple and naturally pastoral landscape, which is sometimes enriched with grazing lambs. Their meat is known with the trademark “Lamb of DolomitiLucane”, which was created to protect the local products from frequent and severe counterfeiting.

It’s among the blooming vegetation of the Parco Regionale di Gallipoli Cognato that we can find the tranquil bovins that characterize our lands and our mountain woods so much: they’re examples of the ancient Podolica race whose origins go back to the dawn of time, famous for their body size, for their long horns, their light grey coat and, above all else, for their capacity to live in the wild. You can often find them in Basilicata, in the heart of the Lucanian Apennines, as well as over the Materan Murgia and over the mountains in Parco del Pollino.

One can come across their herds in the long trails of herding the livestock which is an ancient tradition, passed on through the ages from generation to generation, and is even now very common in our lands. This practice, besides being a primary economic activity, is also a guarantee of the environmental sustainability: cattle only eat grass, which seasonally grows in the areas they pass through. They eat it to fullness and they fertilize the grounds when they pass through them. The Podolica cattle breed tends to produce milk in quite high quantities. Their milk is rich in fats and proteins and it has excellent organoleptic properties deriving from the nutritional intake of the cattle which is comprised of small bushes, aromatic herbs and the vegetation the cattle find while grazing. CaciocavalloPodolico cheese is made of this milk.

This cheese – a very popular product on any Lucanian table – can be sweet or slightly spicy and is preferably cooked as “impiccatosulla brace” (hanging over the grill) named in this way because it is set up with a sort of curved arm over the grill where it is left to “melt” and then to be scraped off onto a toasted slice of bread.Podolica meat has been considered for some years to be a  part of the typical national food, becoming a rival to another cattle breed, Chianina.

Let’s start our trip again, following the valley down the Basentana highway, beyond Potenza (capital of the region) until we get to the valley of MarmoPlatano and Melandro. We are here to taste the Lucanica salami of Picerno IGP, added last year to the list of sixteen Lucanian trademarked excellences. The Lucanica is the delicatessen product par excellence and it is made with cuts of pork meat with some salt, sweet pepper, chili pepper and fennel seeds. It has the shape of a letter “U” and a weight of 250-350g per piece. Besides Picerno, Lucanicaisalsoproduced in the small townsnearby; Tito, Satriano e Savoia di Lucania, Vietri di Potenza, Sant’Angelo Le Fratte, Brienza, Balvano, Ruoti, Baragiano, Bella, Muro Lucano, Castelgrande and Sasso di Castalda –allmunicipalities of the province of Potenza.