Craco - the medieval ghost town, Italy

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Posted on Sat, Nov 08 2014 11:51:10

In the south of Italy, not far from Matera, there is an amazing town. The sound of trees in the distance, a light breeze, the chirping of the birds and the buzzing of the cicadas, rising from a neighboring village - these are the only sounds you hear once you approach the town. But it is not because the residents of Craco - the medieval village in the vicinity of Matera in the Italian region of Basilicata - are particularly quiet and calm. The fact is that since the late sixties of the twentieth century Craco is uninhabited: in fact, it's a ghost town. No one lives there since the 60s, but it still looks like the citizens left just yesterday.

Surrounded by picturesque fields and olive groves, the town is a single sculptural composition of the closely aligned houses nested on the limestone cliff. Above the vaulted alleys and steep stairways rise the Norman tower and 13th century castle. From a distance it seems that the town is just one big mountain: the color of the houses, churches and fortifications are identical to the color of the rocks on which the town stands. However, when you go up the mountain to the city, the destructive consequences of landslides that occurred during the second half of the twentieth century become visible.

One day in 1963, an earthquake of unprecedented force shook the rocks, causing many casualties and destruction. It became to be very dangerous for the citizens to stay in their homes, and it was after this event that they moved to the neighboring settlement - Craco Peschiera, and let their former houses be consumed by nature. Prior to this move, Craco's population was about 2,000 people.

These devastating events did not only result in the people having to leave the town. Abandoned Craco was used by many famous film directors. For example, Mel Gibson chose Craco to be the stage of execution of Judas from the movie "Passion of the Christ." Craco towers over this surreal scorched landscape, halfway between the coast and Lucan Apennines. The ghost town is surrounded by deep ravines and cliffs, washed out by the rainwater flowing from the hills. However, after walking through this charred landscape, upon entering the town a traveler will be surprised to discover the pristine streets untouched by time, looking as if the people left just yesterday. Except for the cinematic equipment that one might encounter on the way, all the things in the city are filled with the spirit of the past: walking along the streets, you can see the old housesand refect on the life of aristocrats, ordinary citizens and peasants of Craco.

The names of the old neighborhoods and streets reveal a rich and mysterious history of these abandoned places. For example, the name - Canzoniere (Italian: "a collection of songs") comes from the name of an old tavern, which stood on a crowded pedestrian path. According to a legend, a beautiful hostess of the tavern, like Circe, used her magic to seduce and enslave the misfortunate customers. The quarter of San Lorenzo takes its name from the ancient fountain located along the Cavone street and surrounded by slender palm trees and lush olive trees. On the walls of the fountain you can see the silhouettes of tranquil hamlets and peasant buildings - a work of art of a rural culture. In turn, the district Sant'Eligio is dedicated to the patron of blacksmiths. Another building of great artistic and architectural interest is the castle, which was built in the 13th century and is still able to boast its well-preserved entrance gate and the main tower. Yet another notable site is the Church of St. Vincenzo and the church of St. Nichola with the Baroque-style altar out of colored marble and two paintings depicting the Madonna with child and Raphael. On the outskirts of the city there is also the Franciscan church, dedicated to St. Peter.

Despite the fact that no one has lived in Craco for a long time, it is worth admiring its ancient architecture. In summer, there are evening classical music concerts near the old Franciscan monastery, which contribute to the fascinating atmosphere of this small town, frozen in time. There are no hotels in Craco, which is not surprising. The easiest thing is to lodge in the town of Pisticci, which is 20 km away. Another option is Matera, which is 60km away.

Gallery: Craco - the medieval ghost town, Italy

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