San Gerardo La Porta - Patrono di Potenza

Festival of the Patron Saint

A great event across faith, religious worship and tradition takes place every year.

The patron saint of Potenza, Saint Gerardo da Piacenza, is celebrated each year, on the 30th of May, when his effigy is carried in procession along the main streets of the capital. The day before, during the Historical Parade of the Turks, the sacred merges with the profane, history and legend come together and the ancient and the modern combine to give birth to one whole thing.


Gentlemen on steeds covered with drapes parade through the main streets of the city, next to commoners on small carts pulled by oxen, along with slaves, odalisques, flag-wavers, jugglers, sword throwers and other performers. This very long historical procession recalls three moments: the 19th century, with a commemoration in Piazza Sedile where the traditional Iaccara is lighted; the 16th century, at Porta Salza, where Count Alfonso de Guevara receives the silver keys of the city; and the third ‘picture’, with the procession and popular devotion to the Patron Saint in the 12th century. The Parade narrates the legend according to which, as a result of San Gerardo’s intercession, the invasion of the Turks who wanted to besiege the city was stopped.


“Lu Braccial” – Popular song dedicated to San Gerardo

Je facc’ lu braccial e nun lu nèa,
e so cuntent e so cuntent assaie.

Nun l’abbanduneragg’ mai mai,
la zappa, lu zappit e lu pagliare.

Mò m’zappa l’urticiedd’
Mò m’zappa lu seminar,
e ogni anno ‘nu purciedd
nun me l’aggia fa mai manca!

Tigne na vigna accant à la jumara
Me pare na canestra chiena d’uva

Tigne na casa n’dreta a lu pagliare
ca quann’ trase vire lu monn’ nuove:
Int’ è chiéne d’ patate,
savucicchie e vine nuovo;
chi la iàsca e chi l’ucciuòlo,
ie me sènt’ d’arricrià!

Domenica m’aggia mett’ lu vuariniedd’,
Ca aggia gì appress a la prucessiona,
ca è la festa d’ lu Prutettore
ca stà esposto sova a lu muraglione.

San Gerarde Prutettore De Putenza Generale
Gnanna fa piglià nu mal’ a chi l’anna disprezzà!

*voice of Michele di Potenza

History of Potenza

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.




Potenza, the cultural heritage


Potenza has been the regional capital for over two hundred years and boasts a thousand-year old history.

Ancient alleys, enchanting squares and historic stairways surround the old town centre.
The heart of the city is via Pretoria, the ancient decumanus, which is a gathering place for local people as well as the main street of the city. It is home to important cultural institutions, such as the ancient “Francesco Stabile” Theatre, in Piazza Francesco Mario Pagano, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum) and the Auditorium of the “Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa” music conservatory.

Potenza is also home to important cultural hubs. The following are particularly noteworthy: the National Library, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum) “Dinu Adamesteanu” and the Civic Gallery of Palazzo Loffredo, and the Museo Archeologico Provinciale (Provincial Archaeological Museum) with the adjacent Pinacoteca.


The Musmeci Bridge


Modern architecture is finely represented by the Musmeci Bridge, which might be a candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List. The bridge takes its name from the engineer who built it in the late 1960s.

This architectural sight represents the ideal backdrop for avant-garde art with its elegant plasticity.

The Stabile Theatre


Nominated as the “Historic regional theatre” in 2014, it is considered as one of the main sights of artistic excellence in the region.

The construction started in 1856, and it was officially opened on the 26th of January 1881, on the occasion of the arrival of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy in Potenza.

Located in a very central position in Piazza Francesco Mario Pagano, the theatre is named after local musician Francesco Stabile. Its structure, decorations and design boast features very similar to those of the San Carlo Theatre in Naples. The stalls, three levels of boxes and the gallery surround the orchestra and the stage. Its small size makes it a one-ofa-kind gem. During the year it hosts cultural events of great prestige.

Potenza, the typical cuisine


Not to be lost is the typical cuisine.

Simplicity and freshness are the hallmarks, starting from fresh pasta, traditionally made by hand using only two ingredients: water and flour. Handmade pasta is the undisputed star of local cuisine and flavoured by either vegetables or meat ragù.

Potenza still has a long tradition of using dairy products characterised by the production of soft cheese filled with butter, mozzarella, soft cheese, ricotta, caciocavallo and pecorino.

Among the typical products there are also the meat sausage, salami and small pieces of meat conserved in oil or lard.

Potenza, nature and parks


Potenza is surrounded by numerous parks and public villas where you can take regenerating walks or admire breathtaking views.

The Montereale park is the historic green space of the city, but the capital city has got many vast green areas, such as the Villa of Santa Maria, Baden Powell Park, Elisa Claps Park, Basento River Park and Europa Unita Park.

It’s only 10 km from Potenza to Pignola, the northern access point to the Appennino Lucano-Val d’Agri-Lagonegrese National Park, a protected area with endless scope for walking, mountain-bike trails and bridle paths.

10 km from here lies the La Sellata Pass and Abriola, located right in the centre of the Sellata-Pierfaone-Arioso range. In winter, this is the area’s main skiing centre and offers wonderful walking in summer. Here it’s not unusual to encounter wild horses or herds of grey Podolica cows, whose milk is used to make the typical local cheese, caciocavallo. The 12th-century sanctuary church of Madonna di Monteforte, situated on the side of Mount Pierfaone (1,444 m), is a popular pilgrimage site.

About 30 km south-east of Potenza lies the sandstone massif of the Piccole Dolomiti Lucane, a jagged mountain range with vertical cliffs and weirdly-shaped pinnacles of rock. The mountains of the Lucanian Dolomites were formed 15 million years ago. Some of the most famous features are the Costa di San Martino, culminating in Mount Impiso (1,319 m), the Cresta Tavernaro (1,390 m) and Mount Caperrino (1,455 m). The mountains, surrounded by dense forests of turkey oak, maple and sweet-chestnut, are part of the Gallipoli CognatoPiccole Dolomiti Lucane Natural Park.

Located a few kilometres from Potenza, the WWF Oasis that contains the Lake of Pantano di Pignola which spreads out into a valley surrounded by mountains.

Cathedral and main churches


Among the main historical and architectural sights of the capital, it is particularly worth mentioning the many churches, which embed an extraordinary artistic heritage, starting from San Gerardo Cathedral. Originally dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, between the 12th and 13th centuries it was named after Saint Gerard. The Cathedral is located on the highest point of the historic centre. Its construction dates back to the 13th century, but it was rebuilt in the 18th century according to a design by architect Magri, a pupil of Vanvitelli. The interior houses a Roman sarcophagus containing the remains of Saint Gerard, while below the main altar, a crypt with a polychrome mosaic of the 3rd-4th century has been found. The bronze doors of the main façade, made by Calabrian sculptor Giuseppe Niglia in 1968, are valuable.

20 Basilicas, Sights and Enchantment Furthermore, on the main city centre’s street, via Pretoria, you can visit the Chiesa di San Michele, that was founded in 1178 and is a treasure trove of works of art: a 16th-century fresco depicting the Virgin enthroned with the child and an Annunciation, a masterpiece by Pietrafesa; the Chiesa di San Francesco, dating back to the 13th century, which houses treasured 14th-century frescoes, and another depicting the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, made in the 1500s by Todisco; the Chiesa della Trinità, dating back to the 11th century, and rebuilt after the earthquake of 1857. Near the historic centre, the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Sepolcro, one of the most ancient churches in the city, dating back to the 12th-13th century, is really worth a visit. The interior boasts a 17th-century wooden coffered ceiling and several works of art dating back to the 15th century.

Potenza and the cinema

Basilicata, land of cinema! There is not only Matera, in recent years Potenza was the location of several Italian films by well-known directors and artists. “La Sorpresa”, by Ivan Polidoro, produced by Movie Factory of Rome, is one of the most recent films whose scenes have also been shot in Potenza.

In 2014 actors such as Carlo Buccirosso and Fabio Volo wandered through the streets of the city, shooting the movie "La Grande Seduzione" directed by Massimo Gaudioso.

In Potenza were also shot some scenes of the films "Quando il Sole Sorgerà" (2012) by Andrea Manicone and starring Lorenzo Flaherty, and "The accountant of the mafia" (2013) based on a novel having the same name by Donald Vergari, directed by Federico Rizzo starring again Lorenzo Flaherty.

Sport in Potenza


In autumn and winter the natural areas of Basilicata are suited to enjoying new activities, especially when the snow starts covering the highest peaks and the numerous ski resorts perched on top of them welcome groups of ski lovers.

Nestled near Potenza and right at the heart of the National Park of Appenino Lucano – Val d’Agri, is the ideal destination of ‘Sellata Arioso’.

The city also offers many sports facilities for sport climbing, tennis or football lovers.

Potenza, the European City of Sport 2021/2022, is a land for all sport lovers.