Melfi, Province of Potenza, Basilicata, Italy

This town, today an important agricultural, commercial and industrial center, stands on top of a hill at the foot of Mount Vulture, a prehistoric volcano.

Its structure is medieval, with an irregular layout of narrow streets enclosed by the Norman walls. It has an illustrious past, having been the favored residence of the Norman kings and then of Frederick II the Great, as well as the place where important church councils were held.


Altitude: 531 m a.s.l
Population: ca. 16,000 inhabitants -- Zip/postal code: 85025 -- Phone Area Code: 0972
Frazioni: Foggiano, Foggianello, San Giorgio, Leonessa, San Nicola

What to see

Province of Potenza

Where to stay


There was a Neolithic settlement in the area, as shown by items and excavation in the necropolis of Valleverde, Chiuchiari, Pisciolo and Leonessa. A Lombard historian, Erchempert, said it was founded by Roman knights that during their travels to Byzanthium were obliged to stop in the area. In the 11th century it was chosen by the Normans as their capital, and in 1059 Pope Nicolas II held a council in Melfi granting to Robert Guiscard the title of Defender of the Faith. Other four councils were held there in the following centuries.

The town was conquered by the Swabians in 1196. Emperor Frederick II ordered a reconstruction and in 1221 there was a 6th Council in Melfi, with the presence also of the emperor. In 1230 Frederick encharged his councilor Pier Delle Vigne to prepare new laws, which came to be known as the "Costitutiones Melphitane" and were the most complete law treaties of the Middle Ages. In 1266 Melfi was occupied by the Angevins after Manfred, the emperor's son, was defeated in Benevento.

In 1333 the town lost its independence and became a feudal possession of Nicoḷ Acciaiuoli, then had other feudal lords, among them Marziano di Ascoli, in 1418 Giovanni Caracciolo, prince Filibert of Orleans, then was donated by Charles V in the 16th century to Andrea Doria, whose heirs kept it until the abolition of the feudal system in 1806. The Doria family then donated the castle to the Superintendence to the Arts of Bari after WW2.

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