Craco Ghost Town - Italy
With the moon rising behind the old town perched atop the dramatic hill, Craco has the look of the ultimate town for ghost tales. A jagged skyline with the moonlight shining through missing windows adds to the creepy effect.
Craco was built on a very steep summit for defensive reasons thus giving it the stark and striking appearance it has, marking it out from the gently rolling hills that surround it. The centre of the town is built on the edge of a four hundred metre high cliff that plunges down to the Calvone Valley.
There has been a settlement on the hilltop for nearly 1500 years from when Greeks moved inland from the coastal plain. Tombs have been found in the area dating from the 8th century.
The name Craco developed from the Latin Grachium and was first used in the 11th century when the land was owned by the Bishop of Tricarico. This long association of the Church with the town had a great influence on the inhabitants and the number of churches in the town. In 1276 a university was established and the landmark castle was commissioned by the Sforzas, eventually becoming a prison. Over the centuries the town grew from 450 in 1277 reaching 2,590 in 1561 and averaged 1,500 in the following centuries. Then in 1656 plague struck and with hundreds dying, the number of families in the town greatly reduced.
The population recovered enough to divide itself into two districts: Torrevecchia, the highest area adjacent to the castle and tower, and Quarter della Chiesa Madre, the area adjacent to San Nicola’s Church. The townsfolk must have felt that their troubles were over and that prosperity had once again begun to shine on Craco. However disaster was to strike again. The agricultural land around the town upon which the townsfolk relied gradually became less productive and then barren, causing over 1,300 to leave to settle in America.
Then in the middle of the last century a series of earthquakes combined to damage the town. The geology of the hill on which it stands destines it for disaster, sand overhanging clay which becomes unstable after earthquakes and wet weather.
The looming disaster awaiting the town caused the remaining inhabitants to be relocated to a nearby valley although the relocation has caused many of those to look elsewhere for a happier, more prosperous life, leaving today’s population at just under a thousand inhabitants. The old town remains uninhabited but its majestic, foreboding atmosphere set in an improbable landscape has lent it fame as the setting for movies such as Quantum of Solace, The Passion of The Christ and Saving Grace.