Cycling in Basilicata: the Calanchi route
The bike path that we recommend in this article is so beautiful that it deserved a special mention of the Italian Green Road Award, an event that took place during Cosmobike, the bike festival in Verona.
We are talking about the “The road of Dreams” in Basilicata. A route among historic hamlets and Calanchi that connects three green roads of the region. You can ride along old provincial roads with little traffic, between scenarios made of citrus scents and views of the Calanchi, the arid area with ancient and quiet roads carved through centuries, now similar to the lunar landscape.
It ranges from the reserve of the Calanchi di Montalbano Jonico, with unique geological characteristics, to the Rabatana di Tursi, the first settlement dating back to the V century, up to the Gole di Candela in Rotondella, with the spectacular ascent of the former Candela lake between rocks with unique shades and water jumps.
Calanchi, the badlands of Italy
The Calanchi are a kind of badlands, dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. It is a large clayey area, characterized by landslides, escarpments and steep hills. The morphology of the Calanchi is favored by the weather: arid summers and rainy winters that lead to a run-off of the ground. There are no trees and crops are scarce. Here and there handkerchiefs of Mediterranean vegetation and wheat and some isolated masseria (a typical farmhouse in Southern Italy, inhabited by the landowners, and included lodgings for the peasants working the land, stables, and warehouses for forage and crops.
The Calanchi area, in Basilicata, is located between the Val d’Agri and the Basento valley.
The Reserve of the Calanchi di Montalbano Jonico
Established in 2011, the Calanchi Reserve is the largest in Basilicata and has unique geological, environmental, archaeological and cultural peculiarities.
In particular, in Tursi, you can go up on foot or by bike for two very steep kilometers to reach Rabatana, a name that derives from the “Ribat”, the Saracen fortress. In this area, which is the highest area of the town, stands the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, dating back to the XVI century, which houses a beautiful triptych from the Giotto school.
The journey on the bike shows a unique landscape: the deep furrows of the Calanchi extend to the cultivated fields, surrounded by woods of the Mediterranean scrub, creating unique sights such as Tempa Petrolla, a spur of rock that rises into a sea of clay.
The environment is home to rich vegetation and many animal species, especially birds, so much so that the reserve is recognized by the European Community as an “Important Bird Area”.
This area is crossed by paths, easily accessible by bike, that are called “Giardini” (gardens), mule tracks that link the hamlet to the Val d’Agri lands, winding from the Ionio sea to the peaks of the Pollino National Park.
Candela lake and the spectacular Candela Gorges
The lake is very recent, from a geological point of view, it was formed in February 1903 due to a landslide which, detaching from the left side of the valley, caused the barrier upstream, precisely where there were the two mills called Candela.
In January 1905, a second landslide, more impressive than the first, devastated the right side of the lake which contributed to further widening it, giving it its present size.
The body of water is located about 2,5 kilometers west of the town of Rotondella and can be reached via the ascent of the Fosso Candela, one of the most fascinating routes in Basilicata, which winds alongside very pure waterways, in which the characteristic colors of the rocks and its gorges are reflected.
Going up the Candela canal from its outlet, after a few kilometers characterized by uneven and irregular terrain, you can see the wonder of the lake with blue and clear waters. And its sight will become part of your personal archive of the best memories forever.