Melfi’s setting on the rich, alluvial plain of the Ofanto river has attracted civilizations searching for the perfect building site since prehistoric times. The historic city sits on a wide, hilly strip of land between the Vulture massif, Murge massif and the Lucan Appennines.
By the Middle Ages the town had become the capital of Norman Italy. Today the 11th century, ten tower Norman castle dominates Melfi from its high point—and the city is girded by over 4 kilometers of Norman walls.
Inside the castle is the town’s Archaeology museum. If a civilization’s wealth and well-being are reflected in its burial goods, the artifacts found in the area’s tombs indicate a very sophisticated population that had enough free time to do some fantastic art. Imagine dusting this piece of pottery with your fine archaeological brush:
The museum is home to many fascinating pieces, including the enormous and monumental ‘Sarcofago di Rapolla’ (Rapolla Sarcophagus) crafted by an artisan from Asia Minor.
The Duomo was built in the 11th century but was redone in the baroque style after the 1694 Irpinia–Basilicata earthquake, with exception of the original Norman bell tower, which survived.
The interior of the Cathedral contains a celebrated 13th-century fresco, the Madonna with Child and Angels.
Regional Wine of Note
Aglianico del Vulture DOC is considered an outstanding Italian wine and called by some the Barolo of the South. It grows in the volcanic soils around Monte Vulture.
Melfi is a major tourist and economic center. Its fortunes have grown with the recent addition of a FIAT plant, which produces the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. It also has a Barilla pasta plant.
Melfi is an interesting city to stroll around in. You can follow the walls on your way to or from the castle.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Due Pini, an inexpensive hotel easy to arrive at in a car. In fact, speaking of cars, the hotel is very friendly to car clubs and while we were there was displaying an Alfa Romeo racing engine in the waiting room that was clean enough to eat off of (as long as you followed it up by a big swig of Aglianico del Vulture).
Find other hotels in Melfi.
Where to go from MelfiA short drive to the southeast gets you to Venosa, where you have lots to see:
- The Trinità Abbey
- The Amphitheatre
- The Incompiuta
- The Domus
- The Baths
- National Archaeological Museum
- Notarchirico Paleontological Park
- Quinto Orazio Flacco
- Archaeological Park
Travel ToolboxWhy go to this destination?: Once the capitol of Norman Italy, Melfi has a lot of monuments and museums to visit in a small area.
Region map and guide: Basilicata
Train Station: Piazza Michele Mancini
Lodging: MelfiHotels, Hostels, Camping and Vacation Rentals
Guidebooks to destination Recommended: Basilicata: Authentic Italy
Best of our travel pictures: James Martin on Picfair
Long Term Traveler Car Leasing: Why Lease a Car on Vacation?