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Potenza is a province in the Basilicata region of Italy. In 272 B.C. the province was conquered by the Greek army. Later in the 11th century, the area became part of the Duchy of Apulia, which was at the time ruled by the Normans. In the 13th century it became part of the Kingdom of Naples In 1861 the province was unified with the rest of Italy in the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.

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The region has suffered from innumerable earthquakes and is still a seismically active area. Although Potenza was mostly rebuilt after having being destroyed by several earthquakes in its history, the city still bears many of the signs that it existed in ancient times. The Cathedral, built in the 12th Century and renovated during the Neoclassical age, houses interesting works of art, while the Torre Guevara is an example of a Medieval castle. The Roman Villa of Mal Vaccaro is characterized by beautiful mosaics and the Edicola of San Gerardo is a temple that was built in the 19th Century to exhibit the saint’s statue. The National Archaeological Museum and the Provincial Archaeological Museum contain numerous finds that document the city’s history, as does the Archivio di Stato, with documents dating back to the 14th Century.

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The rich history of the region can also be seen in its architecture, ranging from the exquisite rock churches of the Byzantine monks to Romanesque architecture. Frescoes, paintings and sculpted objects throughout the region represent a long and beautiful artistic heritage. The historic center of Potenza is located in the upper part of the city and is accessible via escalators. The square of Mario Pagano provides the  perfect central point from which to  for explore the city. Across the square is the Via Pretoria, the famous street of Potenza, that goes from the east side to the west side of the city. Packed with bars, shops and restaurants, Via Pretoria is a vibrant hub during the day and evening.

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Along the Via Pretoria there are many major cultural, architectural and art historical buildings, which include the “Palazzo del Governo”, the recently restored ‘Stabile’ theater and the church of San Francesco of Assisi which was founded in 1274. The church houses the De Grasis sepulchre and a 13th century Madonna in the Byzantine style that is worth visiting. The Romanesque church of San Michele Arcangelo dating back to the 11th century has many beautiful artworks including over 500 ancient frescos, one of which depicts St. Michele slaying the dragon.

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The Lake of Pantano di Pignola spreads out into a valley surrounded by mountains. The lake was formed by an artificial dam in an area of meadows and cultivated fields. The nature reserve is home to a variety of wildlife including foxes, weasels, beach martens, hedgehogs and shrews. The habitat also provides the perfect environment for birds and the reserve is home to many beautiful species including Grey Herons, Moorhens, Egrets, Widgeons, Teals and many other species of duck, Great-Crested Grebes, Kingfishers and Lapwings.

Foods and Products of Potenza

The foundation of the local cuisine is pork: locals are expert producers of ham, sausages, capocollo, salami and pancetta. Typical dishes include cotechinata, fried pork, peperonata with pork or sanguinaccio.

Sheep and lamb are also very common and fish dishes include eel, trout and baked codfish. The first course is always a handmade pasta, such as orecchiette, cavatelli, strozzapreti, strascinate or fusilli.

Sheep’s milk cheeses include pecorino burrata, provola, manteca and cacioricotta.

The three most famous wines from the area are the red Aglianico D.O.C., the white and sparkling Moscato and the dessert wine Malvasia.

The pepperoncino pepper, known by locals as, diavlicchio (little devil) is a hot pepper that is a true symbol of the area’s cuisine. It is most often used, added to red sauces.

Some of the regional dishes:

Lucanica is a versatile sausage made with lean pork meat that can be prepared many different ways.

Ciammotta is made with fried potatoes, peppers and eggplant in tomato sauce

Piatto d’Erbe alla Lucana is similar to a vegetable stir-fry. The dish is made up of onions, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, basil and parsley that are cooked together and seasoned with olive oil.

Recipes from Potenza

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Ciammotta

Ingredients

  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 potatoes
  • 5 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 onions
  • 1 garlic clove. chopped
  • 10 olives, pitted and chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Directions

Slice the peppers, eggplant, potatoes and onions and sauté them separately.

Mix the vegetables together in one large pot with some of the oil used to sauté them and add the chopped garlic clove, the olives and the diced tomatoes.

Season with salt and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Spezzatino Di Agnello (Stewed Lamb)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of lamb, cut into cubes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • A slice of bacon or pancetta
  • A few leaves of sage, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • White wine
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Heat a little olive oil with the chopped bacon, the garlic, the sage leaves and the rosemary in a large skillet with a cover.

Add the meat and season with salt and pepper. Add a little wine to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over low heat, covered until the meat is tender.add more wine if needed to keep the meat from sticking to the pan.

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Vegetable Calzone

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lbs (800 grams) pizza dough
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ¼ oz (40 g) raisins
  • 2 ¼ lbs (1 kg) Swiss chard, cut into strips
  • 1 dried chili pepper

Directions
Soften the raisins in warm water, drain and squeeze.

Mix the chard, raisins, chopped chili pepper, salt and pepper with a little olive oil to moisten.

Roll the dough out into a thin round about the size of a pizza. Place the dough on a large greased pizza pan.

Spread the greens over one half of the dough. Moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold the uncovered half of the dough up and over the greens. Seal the edges.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F (200 ° C) for 25 minutes.

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Sweet Lasagna

From  Erica De Mane, a chef, food writer and teacher who specializes in southern Italian cooking.

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • A large handful of flat-leaf parsley, the leaves lightly chopped

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A generous pinch of ground nutmeg
  • A splash of brandy or cognac
  • Two 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, chopped, one can drained
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A few basil leaves, lightly chopped

Lasagna

  • 3/4 pound homemade or very thin store-bought, sheets of fresh lasagna
  • Salt
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • A large handful of basil leaves, lightly chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the filling. It should be slightly sweet but with a salty edge from the cheese. Be liberal with the black pepper; it serves to balance out the sweet spices.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and the nutmeg, and sauté until the shallots are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the splash of brandy or cognac, letting it boil away. Add the tomatoes, and season with salt and black pepper. Let the sauce bubble, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. It will have thickened slightly but still have a fresh taste and bright color. Add the basil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Set up a large pot of pasta-cooking water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Boil the lasagna sheets, a few at a time, until just tender. Scoop them from the water with a large strainer spoon and into a colander. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking and lay them out on kitchen towels.

Lightly oil an approximately 9-by-12-inch baking dish (you’ll want it 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep). Put down a layer of tomato sauce and then a layer of pasta. Add a layer of the ricotta mix and then sprinkle on some almonds, some parmigiano cheese and then some of the basil.

Put down another layer of pasta and cover it with tomato sauce. Make another pasta layer and repeat the ricotta, almond, parmigiano and basil pattern. Repeat this pattern (you’ll probably get four layers of pasta), finishing with a layer of pasta, a layer of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmigiano cheese.

Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake, uncovered, until bubbling and crisp around the edges, about 30 minutes. Let sit about 5 minutes before serving.

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