The province of Potenza, the most extended and populated of the Basilicata region, encloses a complex stratification of cultures, traditions and suggestions coming from geographic areas and historic epochs very distant one from the other that in time have blended and amalgamated. Besides the incomparable natural and landscape attractions, the Potenza region hosts places alive in traditions, art, architecture and gastronomy. In particular, the cooking of the province of Potenza reveals Mediterranean influences characterized by rich and intense flavours and scents.
Our itinerary starts with the visit to Moliterno, derived from the Latin word mulcretum, place where milk is produced. Moliterno is a small town situated in the medium-mountain area of Upper Val d'Agri, at an altitude of about 879 metres above sea level. Its origins go back to the Lucan and Samnite populations. Rich in history and art, it has a territory that is covered by one third with woods and chestnut groves that make it a popular resort. The products of its zootechny are among the most valuable of Italian gastronomy and, in particular, it is possible to watch the production of the Pecorino cheese that has made this charming town famous the world over. A cheese festival takes place every year in the most characteristic areas and premises of the historic centre during which a glimpse of ancient life is reproduced. Throughout the fair one finds the stands where it is possible to taste or buy the renowned Pecorino cheese.
A few more kilometres along the way one meets with the township of Sarconi, 600 metres above sea level. When arriving in Sarconi, one is immediately captivated by the remains of the Cavour Channel built in 1867, of Roman style and the sole in Basilicata region provided with a double channel for irrigation. In the historic centre, characterized by small streets, it is possible to observe the typical rural architecture where the stone portals and the fašades blend with the balconies in wrought iron. An essential part of the artistic heritage of the small town are the Church of St. Anthony, built in the 17th century, which holds frescoes and sacred statues of undeniable suggestion, and the small church dedicated to St. Lucy in the middle of the historic centre and which goes back to 15th century. Furthermore, for Nature lovers there are the 100 hectares of the Farnie Wood: oak and Turkey oak, representing a truly unpolluted paradise that follows the coast of Lake Pertusillo. Sarconi is also famous for the cultivation of beans, which has very ancient origins. Documents show, in fact, that around 1530 Alessandro de' Medici gave beans as a wedding present on the occasion of the wedding of his sister Catherine with Henry II of France. Some townships of Val d'Agri have kept this ancient custom, symbol of prosperity, until the last century. Considered therefore a real speciality, Sarconi beans have reached a long-standing notoriety all over Italy and in 1996 they were assigned the right to use the protected geographic indication (Igp) by the European Union, which has inserted them among the typical Italian products now under guardianship of the Community norms. The bean varieties grown are constituted prevailingly by "Borlotto nano" and Cannellino, which, through traditional production techniques, are put on the market both as fresh pods and fresh grain and are perfect for the realization of extraordinary gastronomic combinations.
Another stop along the route, travelling southeastwards, is represented by the townships of Lagonegro and Lauria. They are agricultural-handicraft centres, with small industrial activities, characterized by landscapes of woods, lakes, rivers and snowy mountains: wonderful places for visitors looking for nature, open spaces and pure air. It is possible there to taste the typical soppressata of hand-worked pork fillet and sacked in pork gut.
Finally, when moving towards the inland of the Pollino National Park one meets with the township of Senise, which in time has become important and interesting both for its rich artistic heritage and for its food specialities. Flights of steps and small streets characterize the historical centre in which visitors can admire the ancient stone portals, the coat-of-arms of the noble palaces and the imposing castle with towers and battlements, built in 1200 and renovated in 1400. Of great artistic interest are, furthermore, the Church of St. Francis, pertaining to the former friary of the Friars of San Francesco della Scarpa, where very precious works of art are kept, the bell-tower of the Mother Church and the Capalbo Tower. Rich in typical products, Senise is famous in the world for its savoury cheeses, sausage, wines of robust gradation and above all for bell peppers. These represent a novelty and a great gastronomic heritage and, even if expression of simple cooking, they have become priority food not only in Basilicata and other regions but also abroad. In August necklaces of red peppers are exposed in the sun to be dried and give the landscape a typical note of colour in the end of summer. Senise peppers are put on sale both fresh and as processed products. Its production has constantly increased in the last years and this has allowed a promoting committee composed by the Township of Senise, the Mountain Community Alto Sinni and the University of Basilicata region to obtain Pgi recognition from the European Union. Testimony of a tradition that has remained unchanged in time, Senese peppers represent a richness that, together with the other numerous typical Lucan productions, favours the well-being and the development of the entire Lucan society.