Acerenza, Basilicata.

The “cathedral city”.

The small village of Acerenza, in the Potenza province, rises on a rocky tufa spur at an elevation of 833 m overlooking the upper valley of the Bradano river, and is one of the most ancient in Basilicata. Acerenza is officially listed as one of the top 50 most beautiful towns in Italy.

The view from the lookout called “Torretta” is breathtaking and you can understand why since the beginning of time, Acerenza has been an almost impregnable fortress. The site of the ancient town of Acheruntia, which was the region’s capital for several hundreds of years, was also strategically located at the junction of important Roman roads: the via Appia, the Appia-Traiana and the via Erculea leading to the Ionain coast The historic center has maintained the characteristics of the medieval village which then developed to a radial pattern around the Lombard Castle, now the seat of the museum of sacred art. Nowadays it’s principally known for its Cathedral, an emblem of this small town’s glorious past: a powerful Roman city first and progressively Norman and Renaissance. The Cathedral was commissioned by the Norman commander Roberto il Guiscardo and its construction began in 1059 on the ruins of an ancient Paleochristian church which had in turn been erected on top of a pagan temple. The remains of the daughter of Count Vlad III better known as Dracula are thought to be preserved here. We don’t know if it is truth or legend but it makes this place even more fascinating and mysterious. By the way, look for the winged dragon in the Cathedral’s walls…it is Dracula’s family crest! Inside there is a magnificent crypt, completed in 1524 with a frescoed and engraved casket and a holy water font sculpted and decorated with monochrome frescos by the Renaissance artist Giovanni Todisco.

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