A Seaside Treasure in Basilicata

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ne of Italy's most beautiful beach resorts is little known to foreigners, which makes it even better to our minds! Maratea has all the natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast, but instead of too many foreigners, overpriced boutiques, overbooked hotels and teensy weensy beaches, it has miles and miles of dense forests, clear water, pleasant beaches and coves, friendly residents, typical local trattorie and great fish restaurants. Because it is well known to Italians, it also has plenty of hotel rooms ranging from simple to luxurious.

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To get there, just take the A3 autostrada about 120 miles south from Naples. Exit at Lauria Nord and take the panoramic road over the hills to Maratea. The coast here is studded with bathing establishments and public beaches, so you can take your pick. This water has consistently been rated among the cleanest in Europe, partially thanks to Maratea's state-of-the-art purification system. The seabed is rocky and drops off very near the shore, making it ideal for snorkeling and diving. You can even swim in many of the grottos that line the rocky shores; arrange to take one of the local fishing boats from the harbor to visit some of them.

The medieval town of Maratea is charming too. Its steep narrow streets are lined with loggias, ornate portals and small shops selling local food specialties and crafts, which include lace, wooden objects and colorful ceramics (at affordable prices!). Visit the unusual two-story cloisters in the 17th-century ex-convent of San Francesco. The locals are very proud of the gigantic statue of Christ that sits atop the hill. Frankly we find it rather glaring, but you will get an unforgettable view of the coastline from the belvedere next to it.

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