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MELFI lies north of Basilicata, on the border with the province of Foggia and is located on a merely hilly territory (approx. 530 mt above the sea level). It is a few km far away from M.te Vulture which is a dormant volcano of the prehistoric era. The town of Melfi overlooks the river Ofanto that separates the region Basilicata from Campania and Puglia.
It is not known when Melfi has actually been founded and there are quite dissenting opinions thereabout. The area, however, has been steadily inhabited since as from the Stone Age. Daunis amd Lucanians have been among the first civilisations who occupied its territory.
Later on Melfi has been inhabited by the Romans as well as by the Byzantines and finally by the Longobards. Evidence of their presence can be found among the various relics presently exhibited at the National Museum of Archeology inside the Norman Castle overlooking the town.
But it was only when the Normans arrived that the town started to gain greater importance.
Five councils, organized by five different pontiffs were held at Melfi, capital of Puglia's earldom.
The Normans were then replaced by the Svevis with Frederick II who brought Melfi to the top of its prestige. The emperor chose the town as his summer residence and he spent here (but also at Lagopesole, Palazzo San Gervasio and, according to some sources, even at Monticchio) his leisure time since he loved Monte Vulture's forests where he used to go hunting with his hawk. From the castle the king Frederick II promulgated Melfi's Constitution (or Constitutiones Augustales), the only set of rules applicable to the whole Kingdom of Sicily that remain the greatest work of Legal Literature: their characteristics are in fact considered as "modern" by many historians.
Then it was the turn of the Aragons.
Little more than two centuries later, when Melfi was far back under the heel of the Spaniards, the French Army caused one of the most gruesome events of the history: the town went sacked, burnt and great part of the population went exterminated. The French Army was defeated by the Spanish King Charles V who reconquered Melfi in 1531 but the town, completely destroyed, was abandoned for months.
Soon after the unification of Italy, the town was involed in highway robbery.
Struck by disasters as the Vulture earthquake of 1930 in the course of which the most damaged municipal district appeared to be Melfi and by the emigrations towards Northern Italy and Northern Europe, the town started taking an upturn only in the early nineties when the FIAT and Barilla plants were set up.

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