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Seasons in Basilicata: A Year in a Southern Italian Hill Village    by David Yeadon order for
Seasons in Basilicata
by David Yeadon
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

David Yeadon is the author of many travel books, including Lost Worlds and The Back of Beyond. He also did a piece for National Geographic, The World's Secret Places. To my mind he has found another secret place, in Basilicata.

I was completely enthralled by the description of the year David Yeadon and his wife Anne spent in the village of Alliano in southern Italy - on the instep of the Italian boot. Carlo Levi, author of the world renowned Christ Stopped at Eboli, was sent to this remote hill town under house arrest in the time of Mussolini, because of outspoken disgust about the politics of the times. While in Aliano, he fell in love with the area and its inhabitants, people characterized as peasants, no better than animals, by northern Italians. Levi died in 1974, but his works - his writing and powerful paintings - lived on. Yeadon and his wife became immersed in Levi's history of this alluring area and decided to live there for a year. Just getting to this town high in tufa hills was an adventure in itself. Yeadon's drawing depict a rough, forbidding landscape that can be compared to Cappadocia in Turkey and the U.S. states of Nebraska and Dakota. The Yeadons lived in an apartment looking out on the town square and the enchanting hills beyond, making friends with the townspeople.

Reading, it seemed at times as though the author drank his way through the year, but who wouldn't with the wonderful homemade wines available? He sampled other foods of the region that were all homemade - including cheeses, sausages, hams, butter, grappa to name but a few. Some of these hill towns have been in existence for more than 3,000 years. Their inhabitants work the land today as they did yesterday, but with more modern implements. Anne and David listened to their new friends speak of their government and their hopes for a future for their children. Plans were afoot to better the lives of the coming generation. They also ate their way around the 'little snacks' that their new friends provided for them - in actuality seven and eight course meals. They describe foods that I have never tasted and know I will never get a chance to taste - and feel poorer for that. They saw how wine is made for personal consumption. And cheese. And how pigs are slaughtered, and hams and sausages made. (Every last speck of the pig - including trotters and ears - are used, along with the grapes.) Yeadon listened to stories of witches and feels he came close to an encounter.

Seasons in Basilicata is a fascinating tale of a year in another world - divorced from the rest of the universe but still very much a part of it. It's written by a man who has heart and cares about his fellow man.

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