Autumn 2012 - olive oil, Vermeer, Coppola's luxury hotel in the deep south

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Hidden Italy Autumn 2012:

Hidden Italy Autumn 2012:

We have a new website – more interactive and more responsive – please have a look:

Due to demand, we are offering a second Sicily guided walking tour lead by my friend Carmelina (3 to 16 May 2013) – see the website for details.

We still have some places on the Puglia guided walking tour lead by myself (3 to 15 May 2013) – again please see the website for details.

Events in Italy, Autumn 2012:

Events in Italy, Autumn  2012:

Girolio d’Italia; 18 stops throughout Italy, until 22 December,  Autumn is olive harvest time and nothing captures the spirit of the season better than the work and festivities that surround the new oil.  Girolio is a series of events, tasting and conferences, starting in Puglia and finishing in Trentino, celebrating Italy’s millennial traditions with olive oil (including an app and ‘Bimbolio’ for kids!)

Sunday morning music, Milano, until 9 June, and  Autumn also signals the beginning of musical seasons, including Milano’s very civilised (and relaxed) Sunday morning concerts – classical music at the Verdi Foundation and, for something a little more up tempo (and pre-lunch drink), jazz sessions organised by Aperitivo in Concerto – cin cin!

Bernina train, Tirano to St Moritz, until 31 December,  100 years old in 2010 (UNESCO World Heritage listed), this little red train takes you from Italy into Switzerland up one of Europe’s most spectacular train routes from a land of swaying palms to a land of towering glaciers, with family deals until the end of December.

Exhibitions in Italy, Autumn 2012:

Exhibitions in Italy, Autumn  2012:

Carlo Carra 1881 to 1966; Foundation Ferrero, Alba (Piedmonte) until 27 January,  Carlo Carra, one of the most important Italian painters of the 20th century, was one of the founders of the Futurist movement and this major exhibition brings together 76 of his works.  The exhibition coincides with Alba’s annual International Fair of the White Truffle (until 18 Nov, another good reason to come to this charming Piemontese town this autumn.

Vermeer.  Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, until 20 January,  Vermeer’s paintings are a miracle of light and colour.  Only 37 paintings by the enigmatic Dutch master have survived and eight of them are on display in this extraordinary exhibition.  They are accompanied by another 50 paintings by contemporaries such as Pieter de Hooch and Jan van
der Heyden, celebrating the golden century of Dutch painting

Faberge, Jeweller to the Last Czars, La Venaria Reale, Turin until 9 November,  Faberge was famous for the extraordinary golden and bejewelled Easter eggs that he created for the children of the last Czars of Russian but his St Petersburg workshops produced much more than this.  Over 350 of his works are on display,including 13 of the legendary eggs: the last week of this wonderful exhibition – get your skates on!

Hidden Italy Autumn weekend: Bernalda, one of the hot places for 2012

Hidden Italy Autumn weekend:  Bernalda, one of the hot places for 2012

How can tiny Bernalda, a village in the interior of Basilicata the poorest region in southern Italy, make it on to the Conde Naste Traveller ‘Hot List 2012’?  Quite easily actually: it gave birth to Francis Ford Coppola’s grandfather.  The director of the Godfather and Apocalypse Now fell in love with his place of origin and spends as much of his time here as he can.  Recently he converted an old patrician palace in the centre of the village into an exclusive 5-star luxury hotel – seven rooms and two suites, starting from 460 euro and running up to a startling 1800 euro per night.

Nice as it is, the Hotel Palazzo Margherita not the only reason to visit: Bernalda is perched above the beautiful Basento Valley, rolling hills spread out ot the horizon; it is 15 minutes from the pristine Ionian Coast; and it is in the heart of Magna Grecia (part of ancient Greece) with much to show from its glorious past.  In fact, although a little difficult to get to, or perhaps because of that, it is a perfect place to spend a balmy autumn weekend.

How to get there:

The easiest way to get to Bernalda is to fly to Bari, which is 100 kilometres away, and hire a car:  there’s much to see on the way there and back.  The nearest railway station is at Metaponto, a short taxi ride from Bernalda.

Where to stay:

Well, you could stay at Mr Coppola’s hotel but if your budget doesn’t stretch to that, there are plenty of good alternatives including the 4-star Hotel Heraclea at Policoro on the nearby coast with double rooms starting from 110 euro per night or at the Agriturismo Masseria Cardillo in the countryside overlooking Bernalda starting at 60 euro per room b&b.

Where to eat:

Bernalda has a number of very good, small restaurants all specialising in local treats such as tripoline (pasta served with breadcrumbs and pepperoni); orecchiette with rocket or alla Contadina (tomato, pepperoni, eggplant and basil sauce) as well as a wide selection of meats and fish dishes, fresh from the Ionian Sea.  The restaurants include: La Locandiera, Trattoria da Fiffina and Al Vecchio Frantoio.

What to do:

Settle into your accommodation, have dinner and get an early night.

Saturday morning:
Go sailing.  The clear, clean water of the Ionian Sea are only 15 kilometres away and a morning sailing the foamy brine is the best way to explore this ancient coastline.  Ecotourist at the Porto degli Argonauti offers half-day sailing trips, which leave from the Porto degli Argonauti, two kilometres from Metaponto.  These usually include a sail up the coast to Taranto and back with lunch on board and stops for swims at beaches along the way.  Costs are around 40 euro per person.

Saturday afternoon:
Return to Bernalda for a quick siesta before joining the locals for the Saturday evening passeggiata down the central Corso Umberto 1to the castle, owned by the local baron, Bernadino de Bernando (not visitable).  In front of the castle is the town’s main church, dedicated to San Bernardino, which is famous for its crypt, where monks from bygone times have been embalmed sitting up in chairs!  From here you can walk along the walls and enjoy the views over the Basento Valley before having one of Bar Azimut’s famous aperitivi and then dinner at one of the restaurants mentioned above.

Sunday morning:
This stretch of the Ionian Coast was an important part of the ancient Greek world and has a number of very interesting sites and museums, all within easy striking distance.  The most famous ones are the Tavole Palatine, a Doric temples from the 6th century BC and the nearby Metaponto site with its museum, which tells the story of this Greek city which was founded in the 7th century.

Sunday afternoon:
Back to the sea this afternoon but this time for a swim and relax on the beach, either at one of the fully equipped beach clubs such as the Lido Nausicca or the Lido Le Dune or, if you are feeling more energetic and prefer a quieter place, you can hire a bike (8 euro a day) and follow the easy cycle path through to the deserted beaches at the mouth of the Basento River.

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