The famous Tibetan bridges of Sasso di Castalda
U Sàsse, as the village of Sasso di Castalda is called in dialect, is mentioned for the first time as a Norman stronghold in a document dating back to 1068, although its territory was already inhabited in Roman times, when the Acidios station was located along the Via Herculea.
Many families ruled over the Lucanian village, from the D'Anchyai Pietrafesa to the Brienza and D'Aragona families. After taking part in the popular uprisings in 1647 and being affected, albeit minimally, by brigandage, Sasso di Castalda depopulated in the mid-19th century, and among its most illustrious emigrant sons were the essayist Don Giuseppe De Luca and the parents of Rocco Petrone.
The latter was one of the engineers who participated in the launch from Kennedy Space Center of the Apollo 11 mission, the one that took man to the moon: apparently it was Petrone himself who uttered the phrase '3-2-1 Go'.
It is not surprising that in 2017 the Ponte alla Luna (Moon Bridge) was built here, a suggestive and adrenaline-filled Tibetan bridge that spans the course of a stream from a height of 102 metres: it is 300 metres long and is often shaken by the wind, swaying so much that those who venture to cross it tremble.
To reach the Ponte alla Luna (Moon Bridge), you have to leave from the centre of Sasso di Castalda, walk along a path that skirts the Fosso Arenazzo and cross the Petracca Bridge, also Tibetan, but only 95 metres long and 30 metres high. Beyond this bridge is an area that reveals rock formations from different geological eras, confirming that Sasso di Castalda is a true geological site formed more than 25 million years ago.
The historical centre of Sasso di Castalda, once called Pietra Castalda, is a small jewel that amazes with its paved alleys, stone houses adorned with wrought iron balconies, steep stairways and enchanting belvederes overlooking the Lucanian Apennines.
The main religious building in the village is the Church of the Immaculate Conception overlooking Piazza del Popolo: inside you can admire a beautiful 14th-century statue of the Virgin with Child, 17th-century frescoes, an 18th-century bust of Sant'Emidio and a 17th-century painting of the Madonna.
Between the historic centre and hiking trails
The best way to get to know the history and past of this picturesque village is to follow the CAI Frassati Trail, which is 22 km long and easy to follow at the beginning, slightly more difficult in the second part.
This route includes a series of themed paths, starting with the Via della Pietà, which allows the visitor to discover the main spiritual places in the area, from the Church of San Rocco with its 19th-century bell tower from which three bells resound, to the small chapels such as the Madonna delle Grazie in the characteristic Borgo della Manca, to the votive shrines and devotional crosses, including one dating back to 1587.
Next comes Via del Grano, which leads to the discovery of the Cervo Oasis and, crossing the San Michele stream over a small wooden bridge, to the ruins of the Mulino del Conte.
Crossing another bridge over the same stream, we take Via dell'Acqua, which leads to the edge of the Bosco La Costara, to the Acqua Ceresola spring and then to constructions that can be traced back to the Pugliese Aqueduct.
After passing the Via dei Pastori, with its ancient farms and pastures, we reach the Via dei Boschi, perhaps the most spectacular of all: passing through a dense grove of fir and pine trees, the Fossa Cupa fountain and a beech forest, on the way to the Arioso-Pierfaone ski resort and then to the 1710 m high summit.
Then there is the Via delle Nevi, which allows the hiker to reach the Rifugio del Forestale (Forestry Refuge) and the Belvedere delle Scaledde (Scaledde Viewpoint) with a view of Monte Maruggio, and finally the Via dell'Aria (Air Route), whose most precious jewel is the Faggio di San Michele (St Michael's Beech) which, according to legend, blossoms before all the others, announcing the arrival of spring to the people of Sasso di Castalda.
Excursion enthusiasts can also opt for the Arenazzo Via Ferrata, which starts in the historic centre of the village, leads to the bed of the Arenazzo river and crosses yet another of Sasso di Castalda's Tibetan bridges, beyond which the via ferrata begins, climbing up through wild terrain in the shadow of high cliffs.
The route involves crossing another Tibetan bridge, this time a very demanding one because it consists of a single rope that must be crossed while keeping your balance despite the various safety supports present.
Choosing instead the Via Ferrata Belvedere you reach not only the ruins of the old castle but also the Sky-Walks platform, suspended in the air and with an unforgettable view of the Lucano Val d'Angri Lagonegrese Apennine National Park.
Village of Sasso di Castalda
Municipality of Sasso di Castalda
Province of Potenza
Inhabitants: 828 sassesi
Altitude centre: 949 m.s.l.m.
Bandiera Arancione - Touring Club Italiano
Via Roma 3 - Tel. 0975385016