"Where Christ did not go" Aliano by hquittner

Aliano Travel Guide: 4 reviews and 29 photos

How and why we visited

Our Elderhostel group, lodged in Matera, had a "day on your own". We had already seen Matera exhaustively and many of us had read the magnificent book "Christ stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi. A number of us clamored for an adventure to the real site of the book, Aliano. In the book it is decorously renamed Gagliano (no such place exists). Our tour directors found and engaged a bus for us and we put up the price. As a dividend to fill up the time, we included a visit to a rare 11C church: Santa Maria d'Anglona. (This is described as an Aliano Off the Beaten Path ). It is briefly mentioned in a few guide books under Policoro or Tursi. Aliano and any place mentioned here should be best described as OTBP. To get where we were going we went through the "beach" community of Policoro and past the site of ancient Greek Eraclea (which has a fine museum ,but we were antiquitied out). As we headed inland we came upon the "calanchi". This terrain and the desolation and isolation began to weigh in upon us as the bus ascended the hill to the town (elevation 500m)of Aliano.

The Calanchi

This term is the local word for the fissures and sink-holes in the calcareous terrain that covers a many square mile area hereabouts. It is caused by the action of accumulated water and heat upon calcium carbonate deposits which are present in enormous amount and concentration. The action is similar to the one that produces caverns and caves in limestone . The alkali alternately destroys and encourages plant growth depending on its concentration. Some of it is like the tufa of Matera and there are caves and cliff structures.The calanchi are reminiscent of the Balze near Volterra, the wasteland near Postojna in Slovenia, or the Gouffre de Padirac in the Lot. Lacking other minerals these formations are a perverted caricature of the wonders in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs or Bryce Canyon in Utah or even Cappadocia. They are most dangerous because they exist around the hard-scrabbleare peasant lands.People and animals are lost in unexpected collapses and landslides. The once poetic designation of "moonscape" is now considered to be a fatuous term. Since this is near the seacoast and almost subtropical in climate, it is not surprising prehistoric remains are being found in the caves.

A Local Jewish Savior Arrives

Nobody would ever consider going to Aliano if it were not for Carlo Levi's sensitive book. Nor did he realise that he had achieved world -wide fame for writing it. He was well-to-do and now he was rich. A talented writer he never practiced medicine but selectively wrote social journalism. A talented painter he painted. Finally, since he was unmarried, he became a philanthropist, leaving funds to continue to try to help the area from which he achieved success.(We have a note about him under Basilicata:General Tips). Unfortunately Aliano is even more difficult to visit than Matera and so tourism will never touch it. The uproar over its poverty has subsided and it is slowly sinking into the "national fatigue" that comes with doing good. (We are experiencing the same thing in New Orleans as time passes after the hurricane).

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An unusual day trip
  • Cons:The Italy nobody knows
  • In a nutshell:If you want somewhere nobody goes, try this area
  • Last visit to Aliano: Apr 2001
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (4)

Comments (3)

  • karentids's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2008 at 10:59 AM

    Thank you for your informative pages and tips. I have just ordered the book and plan to visit April

  • Oct 7, 2007 at 11:35 AM

    I loved the book and since reading it have wanted to know more of this region. I guess Aliano has changed a lot since Carlo's time but I'd like very much to visit sometime. Thank you for sharing the photographs which I found very interesting.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jun 13, 2006 at 3:14 PM

    A top quality page of tips. Very fascinating environment...so unlike the rest of Italy.


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