BASILICATA.THREE NIGHTS INLAND, between Maratea and Canosa di Puglia, including 2 nights and two fantastic dinners in MATERA at one of most unusual and excellent hotels in the world!

After MARATEA (meals discussed in another thread) we drove to AZIENDA GIUSEPPE PENNELLA, a major producer of the prized, sweet red peppers grown in this region around the town of Senise. I had visited this farm before and although they consider themselves a wholesaler, if you manage to make your way (not so easy using online maps) to the farm, you will be rewarded, as I certainly was.

This is a minute account of our time there last month, clipped from another forum, devoted to travel:

<<<<Yesterday we packed up what has now become a caravan of suitcases and bags stuffed with FAR too many clothes and all kinds of assorted foods. It was an easy drive along mostly SS roads to the Azienda Giuseppe Pennella outside Senise, ground zero for my beloved Senise peppers. We had visited him 11 years ago (I shudder when I look at photos of us then, and now, although Giuseppe looks the same!). (see if you can fine the article about the peppers written by Francine Prose for SAVEUR magazine; it no longer appears to be accessible online)

We had an appointment at 2pm. It was sunny. It was HOT. We waited. And waited. About 45 minutes after arriving, an older man driving a battered tractor pulled up and I asked him where I could find Signor Pennella, obviously his boss. Mind you, lots of people here speak in dialect that is not easy to understand!!! Well this fellow did not have his boss’ phone number but after some fumbling around, he found it someplace. Called someone, told me their man in question was at home and would arrive soon. Waited some more. Very hot. Very sunny. Finally, a man pulls up in a battered car. But no, this man is not Sr. Pennella, he is coming to MEET with Sr. Pennella!!! I implore him to phone Sr, Pennella. By this time it is way past 3pm. And did I mention the heat??

More waiting and by about 3:45 Sr. Pennella pulls up. But wait…he cannot attend to us now, he has to leave and meet someone else. Takes off in his car after speaking a few minutes with the battered car man (not the tractor man). Promises to return “pronto.” More waiting and by now partner is getting very cranky.

Finally, St. Pennella returns and we begin the pepper discussion. He shows me the hangars piled with peppers in various stages of drying. In between I learn about his son in school in Tirana and his mother in Taeranova di Pollino, and many, many other things, of which I understand maybe 30% if that. I did understand that he loved Pollino park since had none of the rush and stress of Senise (!!??). Tell that to a New Yorker! Again we got ann invitation to come with him to his farm in Pollino and next time will surely do this!!

And then, I kid you not, he has to take off again cause he has an appointment but willl be back again, pronto!!!

He did come back in about 10 minutes and from then on, there was MUCh more discussion of Senise peppers of which partner understood nothing and could care even less by this time. VERY cranky. And HOT.
I asked GP if he gets any visitors from America and he tells me he is a wholesaler and does not sell to visitors who pop in.

This chapter of trie trip is going on as long as the pepper afternoon so I will just conclude with saying that I bought 4 “serte” (long strands attached with string) and a few jars of already fried and salted peppers for snacking. My friend who owns a small farm wanted me to bring back seeds but for some reason that could not happen (long explanation of which I understood only “impossible.”)

The selections made, it was time for the packing up of the purchases. But first they all have to be cleaned with some kind of apparatus like a dentist would use when they shoot air into your mouth. Then he examines every single pepper and pulls out the ones that are not good…he shows me the good and the bad and I cannot tell the difference. Apparently it is int he smell and the feel of the pepper. And the color…some have a slightly yellow tinge. Those get yanked off the string.

He then encases the serte of perfect peppers in plastic and seals the top with heat and the bottom with staples. Then threads them through a long cardboard tunnel. I try and mess it all up. Failed the interview for the position!

Now the discussion begins on how best to pack them for the plane: Long discussion. We decide upon a cardboard box, the same one he had used just that morning to send peppers to a wholesaler in California. He also tells me he sells to Buon Italia in New York ;now he tells me this!!! And the he can mail peppers to me anytime!!! Thanks goodness partner did not understand all this…

SO; He selects a box that looks very very small to hold all these peppers, plus the gifts of oregano branches (two types) and pulverized pepper that I should use in soup or atop a pasta dish. The mound of peppers is sky high, but slowly, slowly, he manages to press them down and yes, they fit into the box, which he tapes up and makes a handle.

Now it’s time for the discussion of when we will return and go with him and his family to his house near Terranova di Pollino where his parents stay.
Apparently it is “serene” and peaceful there (as opposed to bustling Senise !?!?!). And the mountain air is so fresh and healthy. We must return for a minimum of three nights. Then more talk of family, and the festivals held in the fall in Terranova. Shows me a book with photos of Terrnova, signed by a famous French photographer named “Guy something.”

By now it is almost 6pm. Partner is now audibly sighing and making faces at me!!

Giuseppe gets a phone call and tells the caller that he cannot talk because he is hanging out with his “old friends from America.” (I hope he means “old” in the sense I prefer!)

Many hugs and promises to return and we are off on the half hour drive to Tursi, to our b&B in the Ratana, the quarter first settled in the 5th century! Many abandoned stone houses, steep streets, a few pretty cats lounging around–all whit by the way.

As arranged, we meet our host, Martine, originally from London, at the Moda Car Wash, and she leads us deep into the Rabatana and helps us with our bags (left the big one in the trunk with her approval).

Martine bought this place about 20 years ago, along with three others I Tursi. Had a devilish time having them renovated and she has wrought a lost charming and unusual lodging space oozing with character.>>>>>

Photos from AZIENDA GIUSEPPE PENNELLA, off the main road from Senise to Francavilla di Sinni…GPS not reliable. Driving from the town of Senise, look on the right side of the road; the unpaved entrance road is not market but about clock in, there is a sign announcing the name of the farm. You MUST call ahead for an appointment. No English is spoken and to take the owner’s time, I would suggest that you plan to buy at least 4 to 5 entire serte (“strings” in dialect, of the peppers, along with any other pepper products that interest you. We bought a few jars of already fried and salted “peperoni cruschi” as well as ground Senise peppers (SlowFood Ark of Taste) and a few brraches of dried oregano grown on the farm in the nearby Pollino park (Calabria) from where Sr. Pennella and his family hail. That is among the many reasons for the breath of excellent foods in this region, as they draw not only from Basilicata, but due to the political lines drawn as Italy was formed, from Calabria and, as we saw in Maratea, from Campania as well. And even, as we saw in nearby Tursi, the Arab influence is found at table in the use of oranges and other fruits in both savory and sweet dishes.

Some pics of the Senise pepper farm of Sr. Pennella:

It is not a simply a matter of packing some peppers into a bag…to process my selection for cleaning took over one hour, even before selecting a box and fitting the selections into this cardboard box!!! Thankfully, all made it home through the US airport and now hand in my pantry closet!

Also note, the peppers are at the peak and ready for sale after the fall harvest. I would not travel there after the New Year and anytime I hoped to visit, I would concur with Sr. Pennella well beforehand and even then, allow plenty of time around the scheduled appointment. As a person not buying commercially, you will not be ahead of others on the day’s agenda. For me, waiting time was well worth it and part of the experience!

And from there, we has a brief drive to our next overnight, in the oldest quarter of the historic town of TURSI, the more-than-one-thousand years-old RABATANNA.

Tursi is pretty far off the tourist trail for North Americans, except perhaps with those with antecedents coming from this area. During our admittedly brief, overnight stay, we heard no languages other than dialect and Italian.

The modern small town of Tursi has gown up around the ancient quarter on a hill, above. We chose, as I mentioned to spend the night at a B&B impeccably run by a native Londoner, Martine, who has lived in Tursi for at least two decades and has had a hand in revitalizing a few of the abandoned properties, turning at least two, into eccentric and charming and exceedingly comfortable lodgings. She instructed us to meet up at the car wash at the entrance to the Rabatanna and then guided us and assisted with the luggage to our overnight accommodation which including a full kitchen as well as a large bed under the stars, within the gated property. (we left the large albatorrs suitacse in the car on the street, as Mrtine assured us it woule be safe there)

I wish we had had more time to spend exploring Tursi itself and the surrounding area (Both Matera, our next destination, and Craccco and Piscticci, which we visited before, are within an easy drive and the room had glorious view of the calanques that typify the landscape of this part of Basilicata and which won my heart so long ago on our first trip).

Dinner that night with details to follow ranks among the best meals we had in three weeks of travel and I would return to Tursi just to dine here one more time!!


thanks for sharing this account here! I love these peppers too.

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We spent one night in Tursi, in a charming apartment:

The owner, Martine, is a jewel and knows about all there is to know for a tourist in this relatively undiscovered area of Basilicata; here she stands, on a typical street in the ancient Rabatanna, where our B&B was located:

I’m guessing that Tursi will within a decade, find its way onto the tourist trail in this region…almost no tourists now…but just waiting…

We had a SUBLIME dinner at the PALAZZO DEI POETI, which also encompasses hotel rooms in a complex renovated by Paolo, who was our host for what might have been the best dinner of our trip:

It’s hard to read the menu in my photos but Ii began, after a “welcome” dish, with a first course of pasta with cruschi peppers, tomatoes, bread crumbs, and smoked caciocavallo. This one will live in my memory. HOWEVER, later on I was advised by another chef not to add bread crumbs to any dish containing tomatoes, as the tomatoes would make sodden the bread crumbs…who knows…must tear into this topic and experiment…Suffice to say, this was one spectacular dish!!

Equally great was partner’s primi of local pasta, “miskiglio,” with local sausage, mushrooms from nearby Pollino park, and my favorite, peperoni cruschi. Miskiglio is yet another exampole of the cucina povera dishes of this area. Because the semolina flour pastas were so costly, the terroni (forgive if that word is an offense) would blend other grains into the flour including barley, garbanzo and ceci beans…a spectacular example of making great use of ingredients that were accessible to local farmers. and shown with great result in this dish at PALAZZO DEI POETI, in TURSI:


Shared dish of young beef from the local Podolica breed. (25 euro) Succulent, and perfumed with a sauce infused with juice, and slices of the local Staccia oranges from Tursi, which are also included in the SlowFood PresidiumArk of Taste…

Walk back to the B&B through the atmospheric lanes of the Rabatanna of Tursi:

Bravissimo to Paolo and to his wife, the chef at PALAZZO DEI POETI…FIVE STARS…ESSENTIAL STOP ON ANY TRIP to the Matera province of Basilicata!

Next stop, an hour;'s easy drive from TURSI:

MATERA, site of two wonderful dinners, details to come, and also the site of one of the most memorable hotels I’ve experienced in Europe.


Lovely report, and those pepper pics are gorgeous!

Wonderful report with mouthwatering photos.


Leely I know you stayed at their partner hotel in Abruzzo. And you were a factor in our choosing to stay here!! I cannot thank you enough!!

This might the most expensive hotel in Matera and both of us were SO happy that we sprung (after much back and forth between us about the price) for 2 nights here. Incomparable and unlike any other hotel in the world!

Breakfast alone would do any normal eater for a day, if not more!!! Because we booked fairly late (I wanted a hotel that was NOT in the sassi, because I like the upper town very much,) but in the end, we settled on this one, and the only rooms available weas the “executive” cave!! How’s that!! ??Executive cave room!!

So before getting into the two dinners we had in Matera, both of which were fantastic…times ten…–LA LOPA and TRATTORIA STANO, here are a few photos of our “executive cave!!”). (Initially had booked SOUL KITCHEN but after speaking with locals, including some in the food business, we cancelled that booking in favor of the two noted, above.


SEXTANTIO LE GROTTE DELLA CIVITA…couldl this be the most unique hotel in Italy, and one of the best in the world???

Second floor of two-story entry foyer…bedroom in back, through small opening:

Sink/toilet room:

New friend from Kuala Lumpur, after fun time in our room, playing around!!!

Bathroom, note cradle and fireplace, to replicate a Matera cave which would have been in use until the 1950s, when the outcry about “the shame of Italy” prompted government to clear the caves and move the dwellers into modern multi-rises in the upper town, above the sassi.

I do not think there is a place in Europe that compares with this small city, visually and historically. I would implore anyone whoo has not already done so to read CHRIST STOPS AT EBOLI, the masterwork written by the Jewish author Carlo Levi, who was exiled to Aliano, a town close to Matera, and who writes so poignantly about the lives of the cave-dwellers and the oppressed of this region off Bacilicata. The film of that name if equally wrenching, and truly needs to be seen…better understand modern Italy by spending a few hours with that film than thinking you understand Italy by joining the mobs along the Cinque Terre trails…

Thought I had snapped more, but this here are just two of the breakfast tables at SEXTANTIO…all local products…no plastic containers of yogurt and no slices of industrial cheeses which you can spot at even many high-end Italian hotels…spot from a mile away!!!

Look at this chocolate and cherry (amarena) cake…moist…there are no more words…all baked on site…THIS is a hotel!!! Unlike any other.


Wow! All looks amazing. Thanks again for your incredibly evocative reports and pictures, @erica1. Gorgeous.

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I think the rooms in Abruzzo, though comfortable, are/were more austere. And certainly less expensive!

Matera is a blast, loved my stay there! Cucina per l’ Anima/Soul Kitchen was very good, as was Uacciardidd Butchers and Deli, their made dishes were outstanding and cheap. Nothing fancy, just good.
Il Belvedere Hotel.

Uaccardidd Butchers

Matera skyline.

Simple breakfast at il Belvedere.