Off the Beaten Path in Basilicata: Discover Tursi

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Tursi, perched on a hill between the regions of Basilicata and Puglia, and near the city of Matera, is an ancient village rich in history, culture and natural beauty. It’s an ideal destination for a romantic getaway, a trip with friends or a family holiday for those seeking a truly authentic piece of Italy.

What to See in Tursi

The Rabatana

Lose yourself in the alleys and under the arches of the historic center and its various districts known as rioni. In the highest part of the village, you’ll find the remains of Tursi’s fifth-century castle originally built by the Visigoths. During the Arab invasions of southern Italy in the ninth century, many of the invaders permanently settled in strategic locations throughout the region setting up military fortresses. The most characteristic and historic part of Tursi that still exists today was once such a settlement known as Rabatana, a name derived from Arabic ribāṭ, a military garrison.

At Christmas time, Rabatana becomes the perfect setting for the evocative living nativity scene.
Also located in the Rabatana district is the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore which dates to the tenth and eleventh centuries and was partially rebuilt centuries later in Baroque style. Inside, you’ll find the fourteenth-century triptych of the Virgin and Child by the mysterious Master of Offida.

More Sights in the Historic Center

The famous poet Albino Pierro (1916-1995) was born in Tursi, specifically, in Rabatana, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature several times. Inspired by the land of his birth, his poems were translated from the Tursitano dialect into Italian and thirteen other languages. His childhood home still stands and has been transformed into a museum.

The fifteenth-century Annunziata Cathedral is located in the center of the village in Piazza Maria Santissima d’Anglona. The bell tower was added later and dates to the early eighteenth century. The first impression of the building is certainly of a much more modern church and the very valid reason for this is that in 1988, it suffered a devastating fire that destroyed much of the original church and precious works of art.

Some civic monuments worth seeing are located in Piazza Maria Santissima d’Anglona and include the Town Hall and the war memorial. Piazza Plebiscito in the San Filippo district was considered the old city center until the sixties.

National Treasures in the Immediate Area

A few kilometers from the town center is the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima d’Anglona. This impressive sanctuary made of tuff and travertine stone stands between the Agri and Sinni rivers in the hamlet of Anglona. It was built between the 11th and 12th centuries on a pre-existing seventh-century church. The sanctuary became a national monument in 1931 and is an important Marian sanctuary and home to numerous pilgrimages and celebrations every year.


On the hill overlooking Tursi, stands another national monument: the fascinating Convent of San Francesco. Founded in 1441, the convent soon became an important center of culture and education. As time passed, the convent fell into abandonment, and in 1914, it was finally closed. Its story, however, was far from over. The small internal church, which survived the events of the time, continued to be used until the 1950s.
Inside the church, ancient paintings dating back to 1377 were found, leading to the hypothesis that the structure pre-existed the convent itself. According to other theories, however, the paintings date back to the sixteenth century and depict a miraculous event that occurred in 1377.


Other Interesting Facts About Tursi

Local Flavors

Basilicata boasts a rich and tasty culinary tradition with few ingredients. In Tursi, you should try some typical dishes such as homemade macaroni and cavatelli pasta with tomato sauce and fried breadcrumbs. Peppers are a staple ingredient in the local cuisine and are used both fresh and dried (pupàcce crusk). Pork is widely used and all parts of the animal are utilized in various dishes. Lamb is also a common second course.
Probably the most interesting food to hail from Tursi is an orange variety known as Arancia Staccia named for its unusual, flattened shape. These citrus fruits can weigh up to one kilogram! It originated in Tunisia and was brought over during the Arab invasions of the ninth century. They would cut it into slices and season it with cinnamon and onion. This unusual combination of flavors can still be found today in traditional dishes.

More to Do in the Area

Tursi and its surrounding landscape are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Trekking, cycling and horseback riding trails are all available for visitors to enjoy. Between Tursi and Anglona you can see the smooth slopes of the spectacular badlands known as calanchi.


At the National Archaeological Museum of Siritide in Policoro there are various artifacts found in the Tursitano territory, such as some amphorae and jewels from the ancient Castle of Tursi and a funerary kit of Pandosia found near Anglona.

Folklore and Events in Tursi

Events during the year: The most beloved events in the town are religious in nature and include the Feast of the Madonna of Anglona every 8th September. Another event close to the people’s hearts is the 10 km-long procession of the Madonna of Anglona statue which leads from the Sanctuary of Anglona to the Cathedral of Tursi and takes place on the first Sunday after Easter. On May 1st of every year, the statue makes the reverse journey when it is brought back to the sanctuary. May 26th is the Feast of San Filippo Neri, patron saint of Tursi.

As you can see, Tursi is truly a unique destination offering an authentic piece of Italy that does still exist.

Continue reading about other exciting destinations in the Matera province.

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