Exploring the ghost town of Craco, Italy
Updated: Aug 18
Exploring an abandoned site can be a very revealing experience. It can sometimes feel like taking a deep dive into the past. Perhaps, exploring decay can be a way of getting a glimpse at how life used to be. Most often, one can get the sense of being stuck in a time capsule, crystallizing a moment in time forever.
This appears to be the case of Craco, a town located in Basilicata, Southern Italy. This place reflects architectural and construction trends typical of the area. Craco is stylistically quite similar to the more famous, better-preserved town of Matera, which is considered one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the south of Italy overall.
The area has been settled since prehistory. Craco lies on the site of a former Greek colony. Eventually, the town became a fairly well-known military outpost due to its strategic location. This was an ideal site to erect a castle in the middle ages. The local Fortress also served as a prison because it was already quite difficult to escape due to the natural barrier of the nearby hills.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Craco continued to flourish. The town became something more than just a military outpost. Craco was known for its university and experienced a dramatic population increase. The community went from about 450 inhabitants in the 1200s to a little over 2500 by the 1500s. However, Craco experienced some tumultuous times in later centuries.
The town struggled with the plague and found itself in the middle of the conflict between the new Republican movement and Italy’s old monarchy, trying to stay in control. Because of the involvement of several brigand groups, the town also experienced some civil unrest. By the start of the 20th century, many locals migrated to other areas of Italy and, most notably to North America, in search of better opportunities.
Eventually, the final nail on the head for the town was when a landslide and later a flood devastated local infrastructure and buildings, forcing people away.
Craco faded away for good this time. Today, most of the original premises remain visible. Craco is still easily accessible to most visitors looking to get a glimpse. Many curious explorers and tourists tend to visit the abandoned town to this day.
The barren rocky look of Craco is accentuated by the fact that the settlement is located on a hill. The vantage point makes for an incredibly stunning and artful sight. Like the nearby city of Matera, Craco integrates well with the nearby nature. The town has many ties to its environment and the aesthetics of the local surroundings. This is what makes it beautiful, but ultimately, also what contributed to its demise! Because of logistics, it was difficult to create proper infrastructure. When troubles came about, a complete overhaul would’ve been prohibitively expensive, to the point that total abandonment made more sense. To add fuel to the flame, the town experienced a landslide, which also caused additional damage.
The spectacular ghost village is so distinctive that it might almost look like a movie set. Perched on top of a hill, Craco inspired many directors and filmmakers, who captured the town in their works. Because of its unique look and history, the town became a very popular filming location. Famously, Craco appeared in “The Passion Of The Christ,” the major (and sometimes controversial) movie adaptation of Jesus’s last days by Mel Gibson.
In addition, the site also appears in “Quantum Of Solace,” one of the most beloved James Bond movies.