Looming on a hill about twenty kilometers from the coast of southern Italy, Craco really is something else.
This is part I of the blog entry concerning abandoned Italian town of Craco, part II can be found here. Story of the bloom and doom of this small city and its eventual desertion is fascinating for a wasteland enthusiast. There was a settlement in the area already at 8th century. At the beginning of 11th century Craco was a military town, and few years later it had even a university, although there were under 1000 inhabitants at that point. Some buildings from the 14th and 15th century survive to this day – though more or less in ruins. Craco was flourishing in the 17th century, when there were more that 1500 people living in the stone dwellings. The town saw the upheavals of subsequent centuries, but it remained inhabited.
There are many such hill towns around the province of Basilicata, especially at the south. Craco is situated higher than the surrounding area, so the vista is vast & wide. This was strategically beneficial in the earlier days. In another way, though, it was a fatal mistake: the ground is suffering from severe erosion, and the hill where the town is situated, is crumbling.
The real troubles started at the turn of the 20th century. First many people left the town (most to America) because of poverty and famine. Then the landslides began, and Craco was literally collapsing under the feet of its inhabitants. This was due to the modernizing of the town: new sewers, for example, were eating away its foundations. Craco was half destroyed many times, but the remaining inhabitants built it anew. Then, at 1980s, came the fatal earthquake, that finished the destruction. Soon after that entire town of Craco was abandoned, and people moved to more stable areas. Now it stands on the broken hill like a noble corpse. Craco is one of the finest examples of beautiful, sublime ruin in pure form.
The most striking feature of Craco is that it’s old and new, both at the same time. As I have mentioned before, I don’t care that much about ancient ruins, because they are almost without exception tamed to cause desirable reaction in the viewer, and thus the aesthetics of ruins is… well, ruined. Instead, modern ruins are not modified or staged, quite on the contrary – they usually remain hidden and retain the beauty on ruination. Craco, however, is both.
Some parts of it looked like ancient excavation sites, and others seemed to be abandoned few days ago.
Like in some other Italian towns, people continued to live in the medieval center through the centuries, constructing new buildings among the old ones and bringing some modern equipment into the ancient houses. That’s why Craco is mosaic of past and present, and the abandonment of its historical center brings the different dimensions of this mosaic to the foreground.
Now the entire town was empty & ruined, and animals were grazing in its streets. Apart from goats climbing the steep hills, there were donkeys, just taking it easy in the eerie town.
One of the most important elements of authentic ruin is that nature has captured it, and flora & fauna have taken back what man has built. This is exactly what had happened in Craco.
The main street of the town climbed higher & higher, and the view from the top was breathtaking.
Hostile hordes were nowhere in sight anymore. The ghost town rots silently away at the feet of the Apennine mountains, waiting for one more landslide to finalize its beautiful destruction.
In part II of the entry concerning Craco, I take a look inside some of the houses. Step in, prego.