If Melfi preserves the appearance of a dark medieval town, VENOSA, 25km east, has an attractive airiness: a harmonious place surrounded by green rolling hills and neatly divided parcels of farmland. Known in antiquity as Venusia, it was in its time the largest colony in the Roman world, and much is made of the fact that it was the birthplace of the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to English speakers as Horace (65–8 BC). His supposed house lies off Corso Vittorio Emanuele in the centro storico (by appointment t 333 915 9547; free), where one large room shows a reconstruction of his living quarters, with a bed and kitchen utensils.

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