Column: Through the unsettling streets of a long abandoned town

Columnist Carol Forster
Columnist Carol Forster

Craco is a somewhat spooky place.

Long abandoned on a hilltop, a ghostly vision, just 40km inland from the Gulf of Taranto, in Basilicata.

The place has seen its fair share of landslides, due to unstable clay-rich soil causing drainage problems.

It also suffered a series of earthquakes, though survived the plagues.

This fascinating town was first inhabited by Greeks during the sixth century AD, who called it Montedoro, but a Norman tower built in 1040 is the oldest surviving building.

Also, tombs found here date back to the iron age.

In the 12th century, it was a feudal town before its independence and a Castle Tower was built under Federico II, which later became a prison.

A monastery was constructed here in 1630 and thus followed a monastic order which played a part in teaching science and religion.

By 1799, Craco had become part of the Kingdom of Italy and, in spite of its geological problems, was a prosperous place.

At one time, this thriving little hilltop town had a population of around 1,500 which reached its peak by the 16th century.

Some beautiful palazzi were built here which containing frescoes, marble and chandeliers now, unfortunately, ‘taken’ over time.

By early 20th century, many inhabitants started to emigrate across to north America, because the land rendered farming and agriculture unsustainable.

This once thriving place was last inhabited in 1963 when living conditions became so precarious that all the 1,800 remaining inhabitants were moved to Craco Peschiera, a nearby town, though this number has now dwindled.

This must have been a difficult time for the Crachesi who were very attached to their town and initially refused to leave.

The patron saint of Craco, Vincenzo, has a feast day dedicated to him on the fourth Sunday of October and the main church of Craco, was dedicated to San Nicola di Bari.

The town has been used for several notable films including ‘The Passion of Christ’ and James Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’. Tourist trips are also organized.

Yet still it stands like blackened teeth all eerie and forlorn.