Ancient Metaponto was founded on the site which now lies on the crossroads of the National Highways 175 and 106, between the mouths of the rivers Bradano and Basento, an area previously settled by the original inhabitants of Enotria (one of the names of pre-Roman Italy) at the end of the 2nd millennium B.C., and visited by Mycenaeans to set up trading relations.
It seems that in the 8th century B.C., Greeks settled on the Tavole Palatine Hill, whereas the town rose a little to the south in the 7th-6th centuries B.C. Often allied with Sibari and Crotone, Metaponto was a remarkable emporium, particularly for wheat exportation, in fact a wheatear is represented on its coins.
In the 6th century B.C., Metaponto gave hospitality to Pythagoras, who transferred his Philosophic School there from Crotone in 532 B.C. The School continued in Metaponto for nearly two centuries.
On a hill, on the site of a former Neolithic village, are the so-called Tavole Palatine, the name usually given to the 6th century B.C. extra-urban temple of Hera, in Doric style. Of the original building, with 12 columns on the long side and 6 on the short side, only 15 columns are left.
They were restored in 1961 and are also called Mensole or Palatine Columns. Remains of another temple have been found in the surroundings of the San Biagio farm.
Today, the rich collection of relics is displayed to the public in the National Museum of the Metaponto Area. Moving northward along the National Highway 175: on the left are two chamber graves dating back to the 5th century B.C.
Four temples stand in the sacred area: in temple C, dating back to 580 B.C., only some blocks and fragments of covering are left; in temple B, possibly dedicated to Hera, and in temple D, possibly dedicated to Athena, you can just make out the temple perimeters; in the middle, the 6th century B.C. Apollo Licio Shrine, in Doric style, has had its eastern front rebuilt (it had 8 columns on the front and 17 on the sides; also fragments of polychromic terracotta from roof coverings have been found).
Near the Agora, toward the east, you can see the theatre hemicycle, probably built in the 6th century B.C. and refurbished in the second half of the 4th century B.C.
The only region in Italy that can boast two names – Basilicata, however, is the officially recognised one – is a land in which human and natural history have left important traces ever since it has emerged from the sea. In olden times it was known as Lucania, from the Latin ‘lucas’ either because it was a woody land, or because it was populated by the ‘Liky’ an ancient people coming from Anatolia, or maybe because it was the land reached by a warlike people who had followed the sun, known as ‘luc’. It was called Basilicata for the first time in a document dating from 1175, originating probably from the name ‘Basiliskos’, a Byzantine administrator.
Even if it is not yet the main aim for traditional tourists, Basilicata is appreciated for its good reception and for the many attractions it offers: health is the key in the natural spas of Rapolla, Terme La Calda and Terme di Ala and Latronico. Nature can be found in the National Park of Pollino, in Gallipoli Cognato Forest, in the Lucanian Dolomites and in the Historical and Archaeological Natural Park of the Murgia and of the Rock Churches of Matera. For those who delight in history, there are the museums of Potenza, Matera, Melfi, Venosa, Metaponto, Policoro, Castel Lagopesole and Irsina.
Culture and tradition abound with the folk festivals and with the very important exhibitions in Matera and Maratea.
Food and gastronomy, offered by hordes of family restaurants, are the jewels of Lucanian hospitality and its cuisine.
The beauty of its seaside is not to be forgotten in the clear waters of Maratea and in Metaponto, Pisticci, Scanzano Jonico, Policoro, Rotondella and Nova Siri. Travelling in Basilicata still offers all the excitement of an adventure, a voyage of discovery into a past packed with history, the feeling of being one with untouched and breathtaking nature and there are also very hospitable people ready to give help and advise anytime it is needed.
Within 45 Km from Metaponto there is Matera, famous for “I Sassi”, caves dwellings dug in calcareous rocks where people lived for centuries until just fifty years ago. In the seventeenth century monastery of S. Chiara we find the Ridola National Archaeological Museum; the original nucleus was formed by the collection Domenico Ridola, who made the first prehistorical discoveries from 1870 to 1920. Also worthy of note are the Chiese Rupestri, (rock churches) excavated by small shepherding communities, dating back to the High Middle Ages.
Possible excursions :
- Montescaglioso 20 minutes: benedectine abbey, historical centre, peasant civilization museum
- Bernalda 10 minutes: the Castle
- Policoro 15 minutes: Siritide museum, archaeologic park
- Castel del Monte 90 minutes: Federico II’s castle
- Alberobello 50 minutes: the town of Trulli (stone dwellings)
- Castellana Grotte 45 minutes: the famous Castellana Caves.
- Parco Nazionale del Pollino 70 minutes: the extraordinary loricate pine
- Parco Storico della Grancia 65 minuti: la foresta demaniale Grancia
- Parco archeologico e Museo Nazionale del Metapontino 5 minuti
- I centri storici di Valsinni, Senisee Chiaromonte 50 minuti
- Tursi 40 minuti: la Rabatana
- Anglona 40 minuti: il santuario di Santa Maria d’Anglona
- Miglionico 40 minuti: il Castello del Malconsiglio