Basilicata is the third least populous Italian region, with 591,000, and the second least densely populated (59 inhab./kmē) after Aosta Valley. The region can be thought of as the "instep" of Italy, with Calabria functioning as the "toe" and Apulia the "heel". Basilicata is the most mountainous region of Southern Italy, with 47% of its area covered by mountains and 45% by hills.
The most compelling attraction in Basilicata is Matera, an ancient town of ochre stones lying inside a small canyon. Its Sassi are cave dwellings thought to be among the earliest human settlements in Italy (possibly 9,000 years old), and still in use today.
At the region's other extremity, the Pollino National Park is one of the few places in italy where one can spot Egyptian vultures. There are also golden eagles, peregrine falcons, red kites, as well as otters, deer and wolves. It is the second largest national park in the country.