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This is not the Basilicata I know
on December 29, 1999
Mr. Levi is certainly a gifted writer, and while I do not doubt the veracity of this political prisoner, his depiction of the people, culture, and geography of Basilicata (formerly Lucania) during the Italian facist period misrepresents the region and the people. The small corner of the rough country from which he draws his experiences is not the Basilicata that I have come to know and love. The region is probably best described as simple yet genuine. Mr. Levi was not allowed to visit the plush uncontaminated beauty of the Pollino National Park; Matera, a lovely seaside resort along the steap and rocky coast of the Tyrrhenian sea; the sheltered and peaceful nearby villages such as Lauria, Senise, and Lagonegro (home of Leonardo's Mona Lisa); the chain of Mountains known as the Lucanian Dolomites which rise to the sky like rugged needles; or the medieval town of Melfi, where Emperor Frederick lived and ruled over his empire. I can go on and on. There is great history here, and to be sure, the region had suffered through economic stagnation and plague. The region is not populated by barbaric, godless, simpletons, but rather by deeply religious, falalistic, and disarmingly gracious Italians; closely tied to the land, and appreciative of its largess. To those who are entranced by Mr. Levi's enchanting writing style don't be duped into accepting his perspective of these 1940s prisoner outposts as the Basilicata that I have discovered in the 1990s and wrote about in my book Discovering Basilicata: An Historical Collection of Italian Recipes from the Region. I experienced a life style that is easy to envy, and impossible to walk casually away from.