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Michele Angileri

Gole del Caperrino

At one point, unexpectedly, the hilly landscape of Basento valley is interrupted by a small mountain range right of the river, perpendicular to the valley, which shows bare rock walls and an incredible amount of sharp and twisted rock spiers. Some say these forms resemble the Dolomites, and for this reason the range is called "Piccole Dolomiti Lucane", or simply "Dolomiti Lucane" ("Lucania" is the ancient name of this part of Italy).
Actually this small range is profoundly different from the Dolomites. The rock here is sandstone, more tender and plastic than dolomite. We are at lower altitudes, and on the spiers rise two spectacular villages made of stone houses and cellars carved into the rock, two villages that seem to come out of a fairy tale: Pietrapertosa e Castelmezzano.

For some years now the Lucanian Dolomites have undergone a successful tourist promotion operation, which brings more and more visitors every year. The two villages that were going depopulated are rearranged and brought back to a splendor that tastes of ancient and serenity. At the same time the ancient paths are rearranged too, even enriched with interactive sculptural installations, and via ferratas are made on the spiers.
One of the highlights of the modern tourist offer of Lucanian Dolomites is undoubtedly the "Flight of the Angel" ("Volo dell'angelo"), a long zip-line (two, in truth, about 1.5 km long each) that joins Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa (and back) crossing the deep valley that divides the Lucanian Dolomites in two. The Flight has brought people here from all over Italy (and from abroad) acting as a flywheel for tourist economy of the area.

And you can do some canyoning here, because the deep valley that divides the Lucanian Dolomites in two is a canyon: Caperrino gorge.

Name Gole del Caperrino
Area Basilicata
Nearest village Castelmezzano
Elevation loss 250 m
Length 3300 m
Highest cascade 10 m
Rock Sandstone
Shuttle Needed
Explored by Michele Angileri, Paolo Bracale, Giorgio Ecker, Patricia Mallia, Carla Minisci, Enrica Paoloni, Saverio Talerico; july 1 2018


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I remember ...

The first time I saw the Lucanian Dolomites was 1999, in summer. At that time there was no mass tourism, no flight of the angel, no rural hotels, ... The villages were silent, the old road that climbed to Castelmezzano from the Basentana was passable, ... Obviously I noticed the gorge of the river Caperrino, but the stream was almost dry and water that flowed there was not very clean, due to wastewater coming from Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa
I came back to Lucanian Dolomites in spring, but there was too much water ...

It ended up that I did not go there anymore, at least not in the right time to explore the Caperrino ... Taken by other explorations, I did not think to Caperrino for many years, until the tourist development of Lucanian Dolomites and the growing fame of the place among hikers and nature lovers brought Caperrino back to my mind. A canyon in such a special place would surely have had something special.
When I finally managed to organize the exploration of Caperrino it had been almost 20 years since the first time I had been there.

My friends and I arrived in Castelmezzano the night before, at twilight. From above the scenery of the spiers and villages in the light of sunset was magical, and the cut of the throat looked impressive, unequivocal. There were plenty of tourists passing on the road and it was difficult finding a parking place. Enrica told me it was impossible that in such a place so frequented by tourists, hikers and via ferrata enthusiasts, in a time when canyoning is widely practiced and the object of commercial accompaniment, to no one, Italian or foreign, had yet come to mind to go down the Caperrino gorge ...

It is more than possible, Enrica. After so many years of exploration in known and frequented places I have no doubt at all.

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