We went to Venosa, in the province of Potenza, in January, as a sort of belated celebration of my birthday. We arrived from the west, and as we passed through wide and straight streets, lined with modern buildings, I began to wonder whether we shouldn’t have gone to Pescocostanzoinstead. Then, at Piazza Umberto I, where the imposing fifteenth-century castle of marks the beginning of the old town, I realized that I had made the right choice after all.
Venosa was once Venustae, the Roman city where Horace was born. As an art historian, I know him as art historians do: the source of the influential “ut pictura poesis,” though if memory serves me (and really, it should, given how important those three words were to the work I once did,) more was made out of them in later centuries than Horace meant. The poet is honored throughout the old town with quotes affixed to the exterior walls of buildings, and with a piazza, graced by a monument.
The day that we arrived I spent the afternoon walking around the old town while N and Pata rested at the hotel. For three hours I circled the narrow streets, holding my camera in my cold hands, remembering my life before I moved to Italy and before I married, when I was free to explore and observe and spend half and hour looking a single building, if I wanted. (It was exhilarating.)
Venosa’s centro storico has beautiful white-paved streets and elegant old palazzi, many of them in an elegant state of decline. This one was my favorite; if I owned it, I would leave the façade exactly as it is:
We have plans to return this summer, to see L’ Incompiuta, and further explore the town and its surrounding area in Basilicata (my new favorite region.) More photos of Venosa in my next post.