Potenza was built as a consequence of the destruction of the close village of Serra di Vaglio, whose ruins are still visible today. Under Roman domination, it was first a prefecture, then an important municipality. During the 5th century the city suffered the violent trauma of the attacks of Alaric’s Goths and in the following century it became part of the Lombard Duchy of Benevento and later of the Principality of Salerno. In the 10th century, Potenza had to defend itself against the raiding Saracens who sailed up the Basento, while the arrival of the Normans in the middle of the 11th century brought a period of new political prestige, which continued with the first Swabian rule after 1186. In 1806 Potenza became a provincial seat and regional capital in the Napoleonic Basilicata.
A visit to the old town begins from Piazza Pagano where the Palace of the Government and Francesco Stabile theatre are located. The Church of San Francesco was built in 1274 in a style influenced by the Spanish artists visiting the Neapolitan court. Not far away is the Church of San Michele, 1th-12th century Romanesque-style church. The Cathedral dedicated to San Gerardo, was erected in the 12th century and reconstructed in the late 18th century and the interior is a single aisle in the form of a Latin cross.
The Archaeological Museum is a symbol of the city’s troubled history: built at the end of the 19th century, damaged shortly afterwards by a fire and then by the bombings of 1943, rebuilt in 1962, it was a victim of the 1980 earthquake. The museum is of great importance for the history of Basilicata and it includes architectural decorations in terracotta, a number of ceramic objects decorated with black and red figures, a small votive temple and an alabaster statuette of Persephone dating from the 5th-6th century BC.