Of the many feudal castles that existed in the region, only isolated towers and ruins have survived.
In this chapter, we will recommend a visit to the best preserved and most interesting ones.
Avigliano-Lagopesole: While Melfi Castle is the most famous, Lagopesole Castle remains the most magical. You can still feel the spirit of the great Swabian Emperor Frederick II. It is supposed to be the last of the castles he had constructed for his own use, built between 1242 and 1250, the year of his death. When travelling from Potenza towards Vulture, it appears and disappears from sight. Situated high and solitary on its clearing, it is splendid when illuminated by sunlight.
Its rectangular design deviates from the classic, hexagonal design adopted during the period of Frederick II. It is divided in two parts: the area surrounding the courtyard of honour and the area devoted primarily to military defence, with the main tower at its centre. Its position along the road to Apulia made it a convenient stopover for hunting, one of the King's great passions. It probably existed even before Frederick II, since Pope Innocence II and Abbot Rinaldo of Montecassino met there, in the presence of Emperor Lothair II of Saxony during the war against Roger the Norman. In 1268 and 1294, Charles I of Angiò stayed there (and made restorations). In 1416, both the Castle and Melfi passed into the hands of the Caracciolo family. In 1531, Charles V donated it to the Dorians. It was a temporary museum for the archaeological finds recovered during the 1980 earthquake and for more than one year housed paintings and other art, making it an essential testimony to the soul and history of Lucania.
Brienza: the area is dominated by the imposing ruins of the Angevin Castle, rebuilt in 1571. In addition to its cylindrical main tower, there is a circular semi-tower in the middle of the walled curtain, which functioned as a defence. It appears quite ruined since the earthquake.
Genzano di Lucania: In the town it is possible to see the 17th century Castle, originally an Angevin establishment and today the town hall. In the environs is Monteserico Castle (542m) where the Byzantines were defeated by the Normans in 1041. It was expanded by the Swabians and it is still possible to notice the barrel vault. The subterranean caves were the first dwellings of the Lucanian monks.
Laurenzana: this Castle was built upon a hill; behind it there is an inaccessible side. It was created later than the village, around the XII or XIII century. During the following centuries many enhancements were made to it, even some substantial ones. This Castle granted perfect control over the whole surrounding area, because of its position and because of its round turrets. Inside the walls there were other defence systems that would make the stronghold virtually impregnable. Nowadays this Castle, though in a seriously deteriorated condition, keeps its majesty.
Lavello: Originally built during the Swabian epoch (rebuilt in 1600). Today, it is the town hall and includes a small civic Antiquarium.
Melfi: The Melfi Castle is without doubt the most famous in the region. Erected by the Normans, it was later refurbished by the Swabians and Angevins. It was here, in 1231, that Frederick II installed the 'Augustales' Constitutions of the Kingdom of Sicily. Angevin changes are characterized by the external courtyard with squared and polygonal towers, works by Richard of Foggia. Today you can note the absence of the cylindrical towers and the irregular, quadrilateral shape caused by the morphology of the land. In the 16th century, it passed into the hands of the Dorians who transformed its central structure. The Angevin stables, livery and mortuary lead to the Throne Room and to the underlying Soldier's Room. Today it houses the Melfi National Museum.
Moliterno: In addition to the remains of the Castle, it is also possible to see the main tower within the walls, which dates from the late Longobard epoch. The other two towers were perhaps constructed at a later date.
Muro Lucano (Lucanian Wall): Unfortunately, all that remains after the earthquake are ruins.
Oppido Lucano (Fortified Lucanian City): Also here, the substantial remains of the Castle are very well inserted amidst an intricate maze of narrow lanes and alleyways.
Palazzo San Gervasio (San Gervasio Palace): Its name derives from the hunting domain of Frederick II. The Castle was renovated, but its style is still characterised by two square turrets, four mullioned windows and a three-column loggia. A small building for the stables from the same period can be seen along the side.
Pietragalla: The Ducal Palace of Acquaviva is noteworthy. It dates from 1400 and was restored in 1700.
Senise: The Castle dates from the 13th century, as is endorsed by the presence of the towers and merlons. It was restored in 1400.
Venosa: The very imposing Aragon Castle that welcomes to the city stands watch over a square of particularly interesting urbanistic design. In optimum condition, the Castle was erected in 1470 by Pirro del Balzo who conserved the defensive characteristics of the Angevin period. It is very similar to Castelnuovo or 'Maschio angioino' (Angevin keep) in Naples. The prisons were located in the towers, where you can still see inscriptions on the walls. Surrounded by a moat, there is also a long entrance bridge.
Bernalda: The 1470 Castle appears a bit squat, but is typical of that epoch. It was erected by Bernardino de Bernardo, founder of the town. He was secretary of the Aragonese court and, with the construction of the fortified Castle, initiated the building of the town which bears his name. Some sources, however, claim that the Castle already existed during Norman times. The truncated cone base of one of the cylindrical towers leads us to believe that the construction was Angevin instead. In any case, adaptations and stratifications exist.
Ferrandina: Uggiano Castle, a Byzantine military fortification, dates to the beginning of the 9th century. Taken over and rebuilt by the Normans at the beginning of the 11th century, it was transformed into an elegant residence by Jacopus de Astiliano in the first half of the 14th century. An earthquake destroyed it in 1456.
Irsina: The old Montepeloso Castle (ancient name) was a Norman construction later altered by Frederick of Swabia in 1228. Today it appears much as it did in the 16th century when it became a Franciscan convent. The crypt was excavated from the foundation of one of the quadrilateral, castle towers in 1100.
Matera: Around the beginning of 1500, Tramontane Castle was built under the name of the feudal lord who was given the city by Ferdinand II. The building dominates the Bradano River Valley. You can see two cylindrical towers and in the middle an enormous, circular embattled tower. The form is quite unusual for the epoch and is due to the fact that the feudal lord initially tried to imitate the 'Maschio angioino' in Naples. He was unable to finish it in time because he was killed; most probably because, as owner of salt mines in Manfredonia and of a grain depository in Barletta, his presence overshadowed the other wealthy men in the area.
Miglionico: Called 'Malconsiglio' (ill-advice), it was here in 1481 that the barons plotted against the King of Naples, Ferdinand I of Aragon. It was also the fief of Hector Fieramosca. It was built by the Normans in the 11th century and their style is perceived in the squared, lateral towers. The cylindrical towers are from a later date. The interior appears altered and divided, but the fascination of this castle remains unchanged.
Nova Siri: High above the sea you can see the beautiful Bollita Tower, 1300.
San Mauro Forte: All that remains is the main Norman tower (altered in 1400) and the tower with its three-tiered corbels, one of the best-preserved in the region.
Scanzano Jonico: Small, but truly different, it preserves its antique centre gathered around the 'Palazzaccio', master's edifice, highly regarded by the inhabitants of the castle.
Tricarico: All that remains is the very high, cylindrical tower. It represents the typically defensive characteristic of the Angevin habitations.
Valsinni: We will conclude with the most poetic of the castles. Seen from a long distance away, today it has an Aragonese appearance and its most famous owner was the poetess Isabella Morra di Valsinni (1520-1545). However, we know that it already existed during the Middle Ages.