In the territory of Basilicata, close to the regions of Campania
and Puglia, is where one will find Melfi,
an ancient centre on the Northern slopes of Monte Vúlture.
Its name derives from the Melpes River, which runs through
its territory. It was inhabited since Neolithic times, as
demonstrated by the settlements found along the Ofanto River.
Instead, digs carried out in the Castle and Medieval centre
areas, have uncovered finds dating back to the Iron Age; namely
centres founded by the Daunii and Lucani (IX-IV century BC).
It passed hands to the Romans after the wars with Pirro (280-275
BC) and progressively lost importance due to the close proximity
of Venosa, main centre of Via Appia (Appian Way).
Under the Longobards, Melfi was fortified for its strategic
position on the edges of Byzantine dominions.
During the IX century it returned under the Eastern Roman
Empire and became stage for clashes with the Longobards of
Guaimaro. This continued until the arrival of the Normans
(1041), who made Melfi one of their capitals (1043), proclaiming
it as a Papal Vassal.
Five ecumenical councils were carried out in Melfi (between
1059 and 1101), among them that which decided the First Crusade
(1089): During 1130, the antipope Anaclecto, held his council
here and in 1167 it suffered siege by Federico Barbarossa.
The Normans decided to build a new castle, new city walls
and a Cathedral (XI century).
At the end of the XII century, the Swabians ascended to power
and in Melfi during 1231 the Constitutiones Regni Utriusque
Siciliae were proclaimed – also known as the Costituzioni
Melfitane – being important codes or rules of the Reign
During 1268 the Angioiniansans cancelled out the Swabian dynasty
and ascended to the throne of Naples. During 1350, Melfi became
a fief of Niccolò Acciaioli whose family were succeeded
by the Marzano and Caracciolo families. The latter, however,
participated in the conspiracy against the barons (1485),
a plot against King Ferrante of Aragona, who after executing
them took away the Podestà of Melfi.
During the clash between the French and Spanish, Melfi was
plundered and burnt (22nd and 23rd March 1528). It was subsequently
entrusted by Emperor Carlo V to Andrea Doria, whose descendants
remained in Melfi until 1950.
The City progressively lost importance and only with the construction
of some nobiliary buildings (Araneo, Murano) did significant
changes come about in the City.
During the course of history, it was repeatedly damaged by
earthquakes, among which we would like to point out those
ill-omened ones of 1851 and 1930.
At the end of the XX century, Melfi’s economy changed
radically due to construction of a FIAT industrial plant.
A visit to the City
The architectonic patrimony of Melfi has been notably compromised
by earthquakes during 1851 and 1930, but the appeal of the
Norman Castle still dominates the City. After restructuring
work was carried out following seismic activity during 1980,
the Castle is now the seat of the Melfese National Archaeological
There are numerous religious buildings to visit in Melfi,
among which the Duomo dell’Assunta stands out. It was
erected in 1155 but reconstructed many times after earthquakes.
Only the bell tower remains from the original structure, which
was built on the wishes of the Norman, Guglielmo il Malo.
Among the other churches worth mentioning: Sant’Antonio
from the XV century, S. Maria La Nuova from the XIII century
and many other Rupestrian Churches outside the habitation.
On leaving the village to enjoy the many possible nearby excursions,
one will stop off at Porta Venosina, from the Swabian era.
Place of interest
The Norman/Swabian Castle; Assunta Norman Duomo (Cathedral)
(1155); Venosina Portal (‘200s); Sant’Antonio
Church (1423); San Lorenzo Church; S. Maria La Nuova Church
(XIII century); Palazzo Aquilecchia; Palazzi Lancieri; Palazzo
Araneo; Palazzo Pierri; Rupestrian Churches: Santa Margherita,
Santa Lucia, Madonna delle Spinelle; S. Maria del Monte Church
(XII century; the Vulture; Monticchio Lakes; Roman Bridges;
Santa Venere, Pietra dell’Olio, Rotto Bridge; Excursions
to Venosa and Candela.
The Feast of Sant’Alessandro on 9th February; Feast
of the Holy Spirit; Pentecost; Melfi City Literary Prize in
September; Federiciana (Frederick the Great) Commemoration
and International Falconry Conference during the penultimate
week of October; Varola Town Festival the last week of October;
Feast of the Immacolata on 1st December; Feast of Santa Lucia
on 13th December.