According to ancient tradition, Castelmezzano (Basilicata) was founded in the 10th century by a fleeing people: the former inhabitants of a town in the Basento Valley, who were running away from the Saracen invasion.
During their exodus, they found an ideal shelter among the region’s rocky Dolomites because from that vantage point they could bombard the approaching enemy with a rain of stones.
Now one of Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages (Borghi più belli d’Italia), as well as one of the starting points for the fantastic Volo dell’Angelo, Castelmezzano was immortalized by local journalist Rocco De Rosa with an evocative description:
“The history of this small town in the Dolomites is all there, summed up in its location: stern, solitary, almost untouchable. […] The landscape seems out of a fairy tale, and views turn into mythical settings from a time that never existed, when man’s relationship with nature spurred him to be completely different.”
Castelmezzano is a place of fairy tales, legends, and myth – as well as history, although harder to spot:
“Everything here has a history that was built over millennia. Knowing and studying it seems almost impossible, however easy to reach it may be. Castelmezzano encloses all of this, like a perfect synthesis. It is a small town, nestled in a sort of amphitheater that makes it look even smaller than it is, compared to the huge rocky mountains around it.”
You can catch a glimpse of that history in the castle’s ruins:
“Castelmezzano has a Norman Age castle, of which only a few steps are left today, bearing testimony to the various periods when the Saracens came to this hamlet with an eye to turn it into something that conveyed their own identity and presence. The entire structure makes the town fortified and unassailable by any real or hypothetic enemy” (translated from “La terra del ‘maggio’, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 2012).
Luckily, today this village, set in the stone of Basilicata’s Middle Ages, has no enemies.