Summer is coming back, finally
Where are you going to go? Are you planning to visit Italy next summer?
Let me say, this is a great idea, but, dear tourist, do not forget that, if you want to stay safe and sound in Belpaese, you must follow this commandment: neither talk about politics nor transportation.
Firstly because we have no real politicians, secondly because we have no transport.
The equation is very easy to understand.
No politics + No development= No public transport.
For a start, you must be aware of the fact that Italy has a surface area of 301,338 kms but the railway line counts only 16,723 kms, clearly not enough to satisfy the growing demand.
In fact, even when the train service is provided, one never knows what could happen.
The train might be delayed, it could have a breakdown or it could not arrive at all because of a strike.
Please, do not panic.
You are on holiday and you do not have to worry about all that boring stuff!
So let’s get back to us. If I am not wrong you wish to visit my country, don’t you?
If so, leave your car at the airport, and take a train or a bus!
I know you are wondering if I am crazy, but I am not, believe me.
No matter where you are going, no matter if Italian train timetable does not look very encouraging, if you really want to go beyond stereotypes, you must leave all comfort and plunge into a typical Italian day.
Basilicata on the road
You are spoilt for choice, but if you are looking for a real adventure, my advice is to start from Basilicata, a region described at the time of the Second World War by the Italian writer Calvino as a godforsaken place.
Basilicata consists of two main cities: Potenza, the administrative center and Matera.
The latter is called La città dei Sassi, the Stone City, as its ancient urban area built in natural caves is one of the most beautiful towns in southern Italy contemplated in the Unesco World Heritage list.
The Sassi conserves a portion of Italian history and represents the most recent testimony of the dreadful living conditions of its inhabitants, which used to live in a promiscuous way by sharing their crowded home with animals until 1954 when Alcide De Gasperi, ex-Prime Minister, signed the Legge Speciale to order their evacuation.
Nevertheless, this is not the only reason to visit this region.
Basilicata is a cradle of unexplored places like Craco, a ghost town abandoned by its inhabitants in 1963 because of a landslide, which was chosen to shoot a scene of The Passion of Mel Gibson, Metaponto where the Hiera Temple ruins show its Greek past, Pollino National Park between Calabria and Basilicata, and Maratea, called La Perla del Tirreno.
How to get there
Despite public petitions and the collection of signatures, public administration has not reacted and Matera is still waiting for a train station.
A missed chance for this city awarded the title of European Capital of Culture 2019.
Because of that, getting to Matera by using public transportation is not that easy.
You have two solutions. Take a train from Naples to reach Salerno, where you will wait for a bus to take you to Potenza. Once you get there, you might take a bus to complete your tour.
This journey will take 5 hours.
If you are travelling from the Adriatic Sea, the best option is to take a train to Foggia and then wait for the connection to Bari. In Bari, Ferrovie Appulo Lucane, an independent society founded in 2001, provides a train service.
To cross the region and to follow the steps of Basilicata on the Road movie actors, you have to embark on a second epic journey. The hinterland is not connected to the Tirreno sea and the only alternative is to go back to Salerno, a town situated in Campania, the neighboring region, and then to take another train to Maratea.
This journey to reach the Promised Land that might look like a waste of time, is an excellent opportunity to appreciate the sense of expectation and a breath-taking view of a multitude of barren hills that surround the highway and which are as wonderful as the Grand Canyon.
Waiting for a bus at the station could be a great occasion to get to know the locals, speak Italian and learn more about the country you are visiting.
I know that some people could argue that they already share a significant part of their life by using Facebook and Instagram, but talking to someone vis-à-vis is not that old-fashioned.
For this reason, I would like to tell you an anecdote.
One time a friend of mine told me that he used to read a book when he took the metro in Washington, the city where he lives. A commuter, stunned by the scene, asked him if he could take a picture of him reading this real book. My friend agreed even though he felt shocked as he could not stop wondering how a book could be so sensationalistic and if people did not miss the smell of books.
Well, sometimes, I am afraid that in the future it will be the same. If we do not stop chatting on-line, talking one to one will be a luxury or something strange. Driving on your own will not allow you to appreciate the unique and inimitable potential of Italy: Inventiveness.
In 2012 Sperling & Kupfer published a book entitled “Se Steve Jobs fosse nato a Napoli”, that is “If Steve Jobs had been born in Naples”. The book lists all the obstacles that a young Italian entrepreneur must overcome to realize their dreams- launch a startup.
Italians are still fighting against their two worst enemies: bureaucracy and disorganization. So, to survive the lack of welfare and infrastructure, people have adopted a problem solving approach as the book’s main character does.
For example, when you go to the tourist office and someone informs you that no buses will take you to the beach you wish to go, you will also discover that an unofficial bus service will be happy to pick you up at any time for only 3,00 Euro.
Getting their number is very easy, everybody knows these curious entrepreneurs. But do not forget to reserve your place in advance, overbooking is routine.
I know that you might be confused. Illegal and undeclared income is unfair and I hope that European citizens will not need to copy those stratagems to put the bread on the table.
At the same time I also hope that your next journey around Italy will help you to understand the chaotic Italian lifestyle.
The idea and the concept of the European Union that joined 28 countries under the same political and economic roof does not take into account cultural and historical differences between countries.
To fill the gap and develop a critical sensibility towards European issues and diversity and become a European aware citizen requires patience, curiosity and travel, of course.
Despite southern Italian administration not having learned how to fully take advantage of its environmental heritage, people seem to understand that this lack might be a strong point for adventurous tourists able to adapt to new situations and changes.
The fact that in Eboli no left luggage office is available did not discourage a ninety- year- old local from offering me her house to keep my luggage during my city tour. She also took the time to share her sons’ diaspora story as they are scattered all around Italy searching for their future.
It is true, those holidays might be more laborious and unusual and, at the beginning, you might feel a little bit lost, but you will never be alone.
Even if the last unofficial bus has passed and your last chance to get home is gone, don’t despair, someone will pick you up and will share their incredible life story.