Melfi is a town and comune
In Italy, the comune is the basic administrative division, and may be properly approximated in casual speech by the English word township or municipality.-Importance and function:...

in the Vulture area
Vulture area
The Vulture is a geographical and historical subregion of Italy that lies in the Province of Potenza, Basilicata region.-Overview:...

 of the province of Potenza
Province of Potenza
The Province of Potenza is a province in the Basilicata region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Potenza.-Geography:It has an area of 6,545 km² and a total population of 387,107 . There are 100 comuni in the province .-History:In 272 B.C. the province was conquered by the Greek army...

, in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata
Basilicata , also known as Lucania, is a region in the south of Italy, bordering on Campania to the west, Apulia to the north and east, and Calabria to the south, having one short southwestern coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea between Campania in the northwest and Calabria in the southwest, and a...



On a hill at the foot of Mount Vulture
Monte Vulture
Mount Vulture is an extinct volcano located 56 km north of the city Potenza in the Basilicata region . As a prominent landmark it gave its name to the Vulture region, the most significant viticultural zone in Basilicata growing the DOC wine Aglianico del Vulture.With a height of 1326 m, it is...

, Melfi is the most important town in Basilicata's Vulture, both as a tourist resort and economic centre.

Early history

Inhabited by the Daunians and Lucanians
Lucani (ancient people)
The Lucani were an ancient people of Italy, living in Lucania, who spoke an Oscan language, a member of the Italic languages.-Society:...

, under the Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 it was included in the area of the colony of Venusia, founded in 291 BC. After the fall of Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

, Melfi gained importance in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 as a strategic point between areas controlled by the Byzantines and those controlled by the Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

. Melfi was captured several times by the struggling powers of the region, until it was assigned to the Norman leader William I of Hauteville. The Hauteville family started from here their conquest of southern Italy, which, in the early 12th century, led to the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
The Kingdom of Sicily was a state that existed in the south of Italy from its founding by Roger II in 1130 until 1816. It was a successor state of the County of Sicily, which had been founded in 1071 during the Norman conquest of southern Italy...


In 1059 Melfi became the capital of the Duchy of Apulia. Papal counciles were held in the city in the same year and in 1109.
In 1231, Emperor Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 proclaimed the Constitutions of Melfi
Constitutions of Melfi
The Constitutions of Melfi, or Liber Augustalis, were a new legal code for the Kingdom of Sicily promulgated on 1 September 1231 by Emperor Frederick II. It was given at Melfi, the town from which Frederick's Norman ancestors had first set out to conquer the Mezzogiorno two centuries earlier...

 (or Constitutiones Augustales) here, reinforcing control over his ever-expanding territory. He created a bureaucracy of paid officials, who among other things imposed a tax system on the local feudal rulers, who resented it but could not resist.

Later, the town shared the fate of the entire Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples
The Kingdom of Naples, comprising the southern part of the Italian peninsula, was the remainder of the old Kingdom of Sicily after secession of the island of Sicily as a result of the Sicilian Vespers rebellion of 1282. Known to contemporaries as the Kingdom of Sicily, it is dubbed Kingdom of...

, falling into a long period of decline, and suffering from a number of earthquakes.

Recent history

The town enjoyed a revival of sorts from the beginning of the 19th century, and recently has gained additional prosperity when the Italian auto firm, FIAT
FIAT, an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino , is an Italian automobile manufacturer, engine manufacturer, financial, and industrial group based in Turin in the Italian region of Piedmont. Fiat was founded in 1899 by a group of investors including Giovanni Agnelli...

, built a factory here.

Main sights

The town winds along the Norman walls, with various gates, the most noteworthy being the Venosina gate (dating to the early 13th century), an ogival arch with two cylindrical towers on either side.

Main attractions include:
  • The Palazzo del Vescovado (Bishopric Palace), erected in the 11th century but rebuilt in baroque
    The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

     manner the 18th century.
  • The Duomo (Cathedral), also in the baroque style but with the original Norman bell towers. The interior contains a magnificent 13th century fresco, the Madonna with Child and Angels.
  • The Castle, dominating the whole town. It was probably constructed ex novo by the Normans (11th century), as no traces of pre-existing Byzantine or Lombards edifices have been found. Originally, it was probably a simple rectangle with square towers, with further towers defending the main gate. One of the main internal buildings was later (16th-18th centuries) turned into a baronal palace by enclosing the walls between the towers within new walls. Under the Angevine
    Capetian House of Anjou
    The Capetian House of Anjou, also known as the House of Anjou-Sicily and House of Anjou-Naples, was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct House of Capet. Founded by Charles I of Sicily, a son of Louis VIII of France, the Capetian king first ruled the Kingdom of Sicily during the 13th century...

     rule a new section was added one the slope descending to the Melfia stream, with several construction rising at different altitudes. The Castle was chosen by King Charles I's wife, Beatrice of Provence
    Beatrice of Provence
    Beatrice of Provence , was a countess regnant of Provence. She was also a Queen consort of Sicily by marriage to King Charles I of Sicily....

    , as her residence. The Aragon
    Aragon is a modern autonomous community in Spain, coextensive with the medieval Kingdom of Aragon. Located in northeastern Spain, the Aragonese autonomous community comprises three provinces : Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Its capital is Zaragoza...

     kings gave it to the Caracciolo
    Caracciolo is the surname of a famous noble family of southern Italy.Its members include:*Battistello Caracciolo, Italian painter*Carmine Nicolao Caracciolo, Spanish viceroy of Peru*Francesco Caracciolo, Neapolitan admiral and revolutionist...

     dynasty of the Caracciolo Candida family lineage (descendents of the House of Candia
    House of Candia
    The House of Candia is a European dynastic house, created by a junior branch of the House of Anjou originally from "Castrum Candiaco" in the Dauphiné of the nobility of Savoy and Piemont...

     and the Caracciolo House), who rebuilt the side facing the city and dug a moat. Later it was a possession of the powerful House of Doria
    Doria, originally de Auria , meaning "the sons of Auria", and then de Oria or d'Oria, is the name of an old and extremely wealthy Genoese family who played a major role in the history of the Republic of Genoa and in Italy, from the 12th century to the 16th century.-Origins:According to legend, a...

  • Since 1976 the Castle is home to the important Museo Nazionale Archeologico Melfese, with artifacts found in the area, from prehistoric times and all periods of settlement including the Daunian, Samnite
    Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

    , Lucanian and Roman
    Ancient Rome
    Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

     periods. The most famous piece is the sarcophagus of Rapolla
    Rapolla is a town and comune in the province of Potenza, in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata. It is bounded by the comuni of Barile, Lavello, Melfi, Rionero in Vulture, Venosa.-Main sights:...

    , a valuable example of imperial sculpture from the 2nd century CE, which came to light in 1856. There are collections of the archaic era (7th-6th century BC) with male and female funerary objects including amber pendants and the so-called Lavello cup. Of the 5th and century BC are the Hellenic-style finds - red ceramic figures called figulae and other princely objects. There are also Samnite
    Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

     artifacts from the 5th-3rd century BC, mostly in ivory and bone, as well as examples of Canosino pottery.

Notable people

  • Francesco Saverio Nitti
    Francesco Saverio Nitti
    Francesco Saverio Vincenzo de Paola Nitti was an Italian economist and political figure. A Radical, he served as the 36th Prime Minister of Italy between 1919 and 1920....

     (1868 - 1853) - economist and politician, Prime Minister of Italy
    Prime minister of Italy
    The Prime Minister of Italy is the head of government of the Italian Republic...

     from 1919 to 1920
  • Pasquale Festa Campanile
    Pasquale Festa Campanile
    Pasquale Festa Campanile was an Italian screenwriter, film director and novellist. He was born at Melfi and died in Rome.- Director :* Un tentativo sentimentale * La nonna Sabella...

    (1927–1986) - screenwriter and film director

External links

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