The rugged, mountainous and forested landscape of the upper Basento valley surrounds the capital of Basilicata, which stands at a remarkable 819 metres above sea level. This rocky part of the Mediterranean has an enviable climate: cold and snowy in winter and warm and dry in summer, with average temperatures in the hottest months of around 20°C.
The history of Potenza has not known any dramatic upheavals: it flourished during the Roman period, gradually dealt with the Goths, Lombards, Saracens and Swabians, and was later caught up in the events of the Neapolitan Kingdom. It was one of the first cities to rebel against the Bourbons, on the very day of Garibaldi's landing in Calabria, earning itself the title of Meritorious City of the Unification. However, there have been frequent earthquakes. This is why Potenza now has a modern appearance, except for the historic centre, which occupies an elongated high ridge and is traversed by the city's main street, Via Pretoria, with Piazza Pagano and Piazza Matteotti.
The few traces of the past that still remain include the churches of Santa Mara al Sepolcro and of St Francis. There is also a Cathedral, which dates from medieval times, although the only original feature is the Romanesque rose window. The castle has not fared any better: all that remains is a tower with a landscaped viewpoint.
In the lower part of the city are the modern districts, where we find the Provincial Archaeological Museum, which is worth visiting to understand theimportance of Lucania during the golden ages of Magna Graecia and the Romans.