Irsina is a Village in the Southern Italy in the province of Matera. Irsina sits a top a mountain overlooking the farmlands for as far as you can see. It has a rich history which began over 2,000 ago.
Yet, I’m not here to tell you about Irsina’s history, I’m here to tell you how Irsina captured my heart and enriched my soul.
As you approach Irsina by car, after driving the country roads of Italy passing through beautiful farmlands, vineyards and olive groves, you see the village sitting grandly a top the mountain.
Upon your approach you pass through “New” Irsina where you can see shops, cafes, street vendors and restaurants but the real magic begins when you enter the 2,000 year old village of “Old” Irsina. You see, the Village of “Old” Irsina is a Medieval walled village in a protective shell designed to fight off the Saracens, Normans, Greeks and more throughout its 2,000 year history.
As you enter the village through Irsina’s protective gates you arrive at the piazza, lined with olive trees, benches and trip back in time. In the piazza are Irsina’s café, several restaurants, the post office, produce market and a store that I would describe as a place to find everything.
Irsina is a maze of small streets lined with the homes of the villagers, streets you think you might not fit your car through, that is until another car approaches and you both squeeze past each other.
The pace is slow and the people are warm and want to share their lives with you. Each family has a plot of land outside the walls for their own gardens and if they grow more than they can place their excess in baskets for anyone to buy, just knock on the door and a warm “Salve” (Hello) will greet you.
Our villa was wonderful with 2 balconies overlooking the country side, and just below us were the olive groves. Each morning we sat there with fresh-baked goods from the village bakery which was a few door down. The aroma’s from there were wonderful in the morning. With our pastry and hot Italian coffee we watched families pick olives to make their Olive Oil at the Village Press.
Upon our visit to the bakery, the baker invited us back and showed us his ovens, he pulled fresh hot baked-goods out for us to sample.
The real treasures of Irsina are the people, a people who welcome you with open arms into their Village, a people who take pride in everything they do and want to share with you their lives and experiences. As you walk around Irsina everyone greets you and wants to talk with you.
I could write more about the food, the wine and the Village but the people are what grab you.
So if you have never been to Italy it’s a life changing experience, especially in Irsina.
By Joseph Nendza