In order to really get to know Potenza, Italy’s highest regional capital (819 m), you must get to grips with its long and often tortured history.
Over the centuries, wars, fires and devastating earthquakes (in 1273, 1694, 1857 and 1980) have altered its architectural appearance to what you see today: a modern city embracing a mediaeval town,perched on a hill. The area was first settled in  Neolithic times, at Serra di Vaglio, north-east of the town. In around the 4th century B.C., the inhabitants moved to the present site. In the 3rd century A.D. it was a Roman prefecture with the name Potentia, mentioned by Strabo and Pliny as being one of Lucania’s oldest free independent cities. It was the seat of a bishop from the 5th century onwards and was ruled by the Lombards until 1066. In 1111, Gerardo La Porta from Piacenza was appointed bishop and subsequently became the city’s patron saint. Today the cathedral is still dedicated to him. A county under the Normans, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, and ruled, by the Guevara family, for a long time. In 1604 it fell into the hands of Count Enrico Loffredo and, in 1694, it reappeared in the Annals of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1799, pro-republican movements and a wave of sanfedismo (pro-royalists) resulted in numerous clashes. The yearning for freedom continued throughout the struggles leading to Unification. In fact, in 1860, Potenza was the first city in the ‘Mezzogiorno’ (South of Italy) to rise up against Bourbon rule.

After the Second World War, many people moved away from the countryside into the cities, resulting in expansion north of the city (the Santa Maria district and, more recently, Macchia Romana) and the lower Basento valley.

The last devastating earthquake struck Potenza on 23 November, 1980, measuring IX on the Mercalli scale. As it has throughout its history, the city rose again from the ruins and reacted by conducting a major overhaul of the streets and buildings in the old city centre and a reconstruction programme implementing hi-tech antiseismic building techniques in the rest of the city.