Italy’s Basilicata region is one of the few that has two coastlines- one on the Tyrrhenian side and the other on the Ionian Sea. Maratea (Tyrrhenian) is probably the most famous beach destination in the region, but we’re here to tell you that Policoro and Nova Siri are also fantastic holiday spots.
A Bit of Background on Basilicata
By now, everyone on the planet has become familiar, and fascinated, with Matera, the “City of Stones”. Since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was filmed here in 2004, this mysterious city that more closely resembles the Middle East than the rest of Italy has become quite well known. In 2019 it was named the European Capital of Culture and was able to reap the benefits of such a title before the pandemic changed the world as we knew it.
Parts of Basilicata, along with a few other regions, still remain a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of authentic Italy. Hilltop villages like Craco show that in most of the region, time has stood still for centuries. The Gallipoli Cognato National Park is also an unexpected surprise that you have probably never heard about.
Policoro Lido is about an hour by car from Matera and situated on the Gulf of Taranto (Ionian Sea). This little stretch of Lucania (Basilicata) is only about 40 km from the border with the Puglia region – where you’ll find destinations like Metaponto– and just a couple of km from Calabria to the south. If you have a car, which you should when you visit, you can easily see the entire coastline.
Policoro’s shores are unique in that they are part of a rare biome, a swampy marshland and deciduous forest that is now protected. The region, with the help of the WWF, has set aside 1,200 hectares of land as the Riserva Naturale Bosco Pantano di Policoro (Pantano Wood Nature Reserve) and the Herakleia WWF Oasis. Protected species such as the Caretta caretta sea turtle, monk seal, and over 150 species of birds continue to thrive thanks to research and conservation efforts by volunteers.
They are serious about the environment here and the beach is continuously awarded the prestigious Blue Flag. You can expect sandy beaches with shallow shores which are perfect for families with young children. There are also plenty of choices as to what kind of beach experience you prefer- everything from fancy cabanas to sections of “free beach”. This area is also well known for sailing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and canoeing. You can rent equipment or hire an experienced guide or skipper to take you out on the open sea.
Nova Siri, also a Blue Flag beach, is just a few kilometers south of Policoro with its own historic center and castle.
Like its neighbor Metaponto to the north, Policoro was part of Magna Grecia. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Siritide is both a museum and site that hold priceless relics from the Siris-Herakleia site, some dating as early as the 9th century BC.
Food and Wine
Even Italians love the fact that the flavors of Basilicata are authentic. You will be hard-pressed to find a touristy restaurant that is serving up frozen pizzas. Of course, seafood and fresh fish are at the top of the menu. Don’t miss out on the unique delicacy of U’ Pastzzott which is a deep-fried pastry stuffed with either chickpeas or almonds. You will barely notice the chickpea flavor because of the wild combination of sugar, cinnamon, honey, cocoa powder, liqueur, and citrus.
Wines include the local varieties of Malvasia, Bombino Bianco, Grottino di Roccanova, and Aglianico del Vulture.