Let’s return to Basilicata, an unknown Italian gem full of surprises, from its unspoiled nature to ancient enchanted villages and artisan shops where you can find unique items. The Lucania region is pure beauty, in addition it also offers high-quality food and wine traditions and… music. Yes, that’s right! Today, we take you to Viggiano, a charming village in the Val d’Agri, in the province of Potenza. Praised even by Pascoli, this small town is famous for its musical tradition. It’s the birthplace of the Italian Folk Harp, which has circled the globe. Let’s explore Viggiano through six things you shouldn’t miss!
1. Piazza Regina delle Genti Lucane
We begin our exploration of Viggiano at Piazza Regina delle Genti Lucane. This panoramic square is located in front of the Pontifical Basilica of the Black Madonna and the Town Hall. From here, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire Agri Valley, the lake, and the surrounding mountains. Walking along the “Balaustra delle Genti Lucane”, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in an exciting experience, almost like visiting an open-air art gallery.
2. Museum of Local Traditions
Viggiano is famous for its musical tradition related to the folk harp. In the 18th century, many musicians from this small town traveled the world in search of fortune, carrying their portable harps, which they had learned to play from childhood. MUVIG is the Museum of Local Traditions in Viggiano, which hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of the Viggiano harp. This museum is located in the Convent of Santa Maria del Gesù, built in 1478 by Franciscan monks. Here, you can also discover local traditions, domestic life, and artisan crafts of Viggiano.
3. The Museum of Viggiano’s Harp in the Villa del Marchese
Just a few steps from the historic center, you’ll find the Villa del Marchese Sanfelice, a 19th-century historical residence surrounded by a beautiful garden. Purchased by the Municipality of Viggiano, who recently renovated the building so now it can house the Museum of Music in Viggiano and the Viggiano Folk Harp School. Inside the villa, you can learn about the history and characteristics of the Viggiano harp, see musical instruments up close, and participate in cultural and musical events.
4. The Fountain and Statues of Piazza San Giovanni
Piazza San Giovanni is one of the largest squares in Basilicata and is dedicated to music and concerts. The square is shaped like a harp and features a music fountain that offers water and light shows. The four bronze statues depicting barefoot women playing musical instruments like the violin, flute, cello, and harp are incredibly lifelike and pay tribute to Viggiano’s musical tradition. They often hold free concerts with nationally and internationally renowned artists.
5. The Municipal Theater
This historical gem in the heart of Viggiano has been recently restored. On the dome above the stage, you can admire a pictorial representation of the Last Judgment, which had been hidden under layers of plaster for centuries and was uncovered only recently.
6. The Black Madonna of Viggiano
The Black Madonna of Viggiano is a Byzantine icon found on top of a mountain and brought to the village by shepherds. Legend has it that she returned to the mountain on her own during the night. Every first Sunday of May, they carry the Black Madonna in a procession to the mountaintop by twelve “mariofili” along an ancient cattle track. Every September marks the celebration of the Madonna’s return to Viggiano, a significant religious and cultural event.
Viggiano is another magical and lesser-known place in Basilicata, rich in history, culture, and musical traditions. Are you ready to fully immerse yourself in the soul of this fascinating village?
Original article written by Silvia Ombellini