Italy's Earthquake Ravaged Ghost Towns

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You'll have heard, no doubt, of Pompeii, the Roman town perfectly preserved in a moment when nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted. The townspeople had no time to flee and when the lava hit, they and their houses were preserved for thousands of years. Slightly lesser known, however, are the ghost towns dotted around other areas of Italy that were created by earthquakes. From artist communes; to film locations; to the plain spooky; these Italian ghost towns are truly sublime.

Romagnano al Monte

A very recent addition to the Italian ghost town collection, Romagnano al Monte was a small village in Salerno that was destroyed by the Irpinia earthquake of 1980. The earthquake claimed 3,000 lives. The astute villagers chose to relocate rather than rebuild, and moved a few kilometres away to a safer area, but the bulk of the town remains. In the 2000s, the area became a tourist attraction. Despite only being 30 years old and being littered with the remains of electricity wires and modern conveniences, the town already feels like a medieval ruin.


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There were several contributing factors to the mass migration that left the medieval hillside town of Craco a ‘Paese Fantasma’. Things like war, landslides and recurring earthquakes. The village is located on the ‘instep’ of the boot-shaped Italy in Matera province and dates back to 540AD. Most of the villagers moved down the road or to America between 1892 and 1922. The landslide in 1963 saw the remaining 1,800 inhabitants leave. The ghost town that is left has become a tourist attraction and film location. Some scenes from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, “James Bond: The Quantum of Solace” and Tom Conti’s “Saving Grace” were filmed in the town.


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This ancient town in Savona (North West Italy) was abandoned, that much is clear from the deserted streets and empty houses. Very little information, however, remains about the town – when it was established or when and why the people migrated away. It is presumed, because of the earthquakes that plagued the coastal area in the late 19th century. There was one in 1887 that measured 6.7 in magnitude (enough to send anyone packing!). This is a last chance to see it in its current state though, as plans for redevelopment are being pushed through.


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Bussana Vecchia

The same earthquake that struck Balestrino (mentioned above) also hit this beautiful town and killed more than 2,000 of the people who lived here. It was, in fact, the first earthquake to be measured by a true seismograph, built by Italian Filippo Cecchi. The old village was abandoned and inhabitants relocated to the aptly named Bussana Nuova (New Bussana). From the 1950s people started to live illegally here and in the 1960s squatting artists set up a commune. Despite repeated attempts by the government to evict them, the Community of International Artists remains in the town to this day. They survive by selling art to tourists.


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Located in Calabria (Southern Italy), Pentedattilo was founded by the Greeks in 640BC. In 1793 it was hit by a devastating earthquake. So devastating, in fact, that the townspeople migrated to a nearby town called Melito Porto Salvo. Overlooking the Ionian Sea, the town is like an open-air museum, where the inhabitants had to abandon their homes and belongings. The town remained empty until the 1960s were a surge in interest in the town saw money and volunteers flood in to partially restore it. Pentedattilo now plays host to a film festival and to many artists who draw inspiration from its ruins (much like Bussana Vecchia).


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This guest article was contributed by Oliver Randall, a writer at HouseTrip who loves travel, photography and discovering oddities. These combined passions have seen him explore some amazing areas of the world, and he can currently be found in Rome.

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