The Haunting Ruins of Craco Italy
Written By: LFG
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
For over half a century, an ancient town in Southern Italy called Craco has been left abandoned despite weathering through several storms throughout the years. However, what it lacks in inhabitants, it makes up for in its rich culture and history.
The Early Days of Craco
Built in the 8th century, Craco sits on top of a steep 1,300-foot cliff located roughly 25 miles from the Taranto Gulf in Italy. The area used to be inhabited by Greeks in 540 AD, and they called it Montedoro. Amidst its dangerous terrain, Craco looks majestic even from afar, and its gorgeous panoramic views proved to be an advantage whenever there was a threat of attack from nearby towns.
An archbishop by the name of Arnaldo used to own the land in 1040 AD when the Norman Tower, considered the oldest structure in town, was built. Much of the edifices were made during this time, even when ownership was passed on to Roberto di Pietrapertos. He took control of Craco and erected more buildings, including a university and the Castle Tower.
Centuries later in 1561, Craco’s population ballooned to 2,590 and reached its maximum occupancy that ultimately be its downfall. Despite that, Craco’s economy boomed, evolving into a promising city any citizen would be proud of. The people’s main livelihood was agriculture which produced a variety of crops, wine, and cotton.
A Town Cursed with Tragedies
Unfortunately, Craco’s prime geographic location couldn’t escape natural calamities and epidemics. One such fatal epidemic was the Black Plague in 1656, killing hundreds of people, which caused the population to dip significantly. Another tragedy struck in the form of a severe famine, and it became the tipping point for many of Craco’s residents as food became scarce. It resulted in the migration of roughly 1,300 locals within a span of 30 years from 1892 to 1922.
Being situated on a hill made the medieval town picturesque, but the soil on Craco was made of various types of clay as it turns out. This eventually put the city in danger after multiple landslides devastated the area beginning in the 1950s up until 1963. This in turn resulted in a number of evacuations to avoid further injury. People later determined that the water systems and the town’s degrading infrastructure were the cause; thus, the last 1,800 people of Craco moved to the valley called Craco Peschiera instead, much to the dismay of the citizens.
The future became even bleaker for the city after a flood in 1972 aggravated the town’s current state. Craco’s existence was dwindling, and the final nail in the coffin came in 1980. The once-magnificent city was totally deserted after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the area leaving the city of Craco in a state that we now know it to be today.
Craco Today: A Modern-Day Festival Site
The glory of Craco lives on years after it has been abandoned thanks to the advent of tourism. However, visitors are only allowed on the site through a guided tour as the entire city is under lock and key. Festivals and concerts continue to bring life to its decrepit ruins by providing funding to the conservation of Craco, especially after it was added to the World Monuments Fund. From May to October, half a dozen festivals are held there in ode to Virgin Mary—with an attendance limit of 35 persons.
Besides sightseeing opportunities, Craco has also become the perfect backdrop for Hollywood films like the 2008 James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, and the highly controversial film, The Passion of the Christ.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no ghosts in the area despite having zero inhabitants. Tour guides shared how the windy hills may sound eerie in the night, but the only thing haunting Craco is its memories. A quick visit to the old town would lead one to understand why the former residents were hesitant to leave it despite all the landslides and disasters—in its loneliness, Craco remains to be simply breathtaking.
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