Scattered throughout Italy are evocative remnants of abandoned towns, sometimes called ghost towns. One of the prettiest is Craco, in southern Italy’s Basilicata region, about an hour’s drive southwest of Matera, the town known for its cave settlements. Towns are abandoned for a combination of reasons, often a result of natural disaster or closing of factories or mines, coupled with isolation and even modernization.
Craco is in a beautiful but isolated position on a hill. When the newer part of the town suffered from a landslide, at least partially caused by building a modern road and adding individual cisterns, the older part that was still intact suffered from a lack of services and was eventually abandoned. Today it’s been revived as a tourist site, although it’s a pretty off the beaten track site, and the only residents you’re likely to see are cats, dogs, or horses or maybe even a ghost or two.
To visit Craco, buy a ticket at the visitor office. You’ll need to be accompanied by a guide who will take you through the village, telling you its history and pointing out what were once bakeries, stores, houses, and churches. It’s an eerie look at a once-thriving village that’s now known as a ghost town. Tours are available in English but it’s best to book ahead to be sure the English-speaking guide will be there.
The tour starts with a video and short explanation about the town. You’ll sign some forms and don a hard hat and you’re ready to go.
The oldest part of Craco, built on solid bedrock, still remains standing. Looking in windows you can even see some furniture, although much was looted over the years. It’s easy to imagine bread baking in the oven or the church bell tolling to call people to mass. The church’s beautiful majolica dome still gleams in the sunlight.
Movies and commercials have been filmed in Craco including including the hanging of Judas scene in The Passion of the Christ and some scenes in the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Renovations are ongoing to make it safer and more accessible for visitors.
See more photos and read more: Craco, on Wandering Italy