A tour of the ghost towns of Italy

Forgotten by men and time, the ghost towns of Italy or otherwise known as ‘Le Citta’ Morte’ (dead cities) are hauntingly beautiful remnants of the ravages of nature. These towns and villages have been abandoned by their inhabitants, mostly due to natural disasters such as earthquakes or landslides, but also for economic reasons such as the depletion of natural resources.

From artist communes to film locations, some of these Italian ghost towns have been given a new lease of life and even attract an increasing number of visitors who find themselves drawn in by their decaying charm. What makes them particularly intriguing is that many of them appear to have been left untouched as if abandoned overnight and leaving behind evidence of a  past where time stood still.

A larger number of these ghost cities and towns can be found in the more impoverished and earthquake prone southern regions, such as Campania, Sicily and Basilicata, but there are many others dotted all around Italy.

Here’s a list of 4 of the most interesting Italian ghost towns:

 1. Craco, Basilicata 


The medieval town of Craco saw a mass migration and its final 1,800 inhabitants leave in 1963, after a series of devastating and recurring earthquakes. Because of its unique and particular landscape, this ghost town has since been the location of many famous movies such as Mel Gibson’s ‘the Passion of Christ’ and James Bond’s Quantum of Solace. 

2. Poggioreale, Sicily

Poggioreale, Sicily

Poggioreale like several other towns in Sicily’s Belice Valley was extensively damaged by an earthquake in 1968. Consequently the old town was abandoned and a new one established just a few kilometres away.  Poggioreale is indeed one of the most unique Sicilian towns full of charm and history and from a distance on a summer day, it appears to be the deserted scene of a Spaghetti Western but with no cowboys and shootings in sight!

3. Bussana Vecchia, Liguria

Bussana Vecchia

Bussana Vecchia is a 1,000 year old ghost town near San Remo in Liguria on the Italian Riviera. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1887 and was later renovated and repopulated in the early 1960’s by an international community of artists. Once the artists moved in, they slowly began rebuilding the ruins by using the original stones from the rubble. Their idea was to lead a simple life and sustain themselves thanks to their artistic efforts.

4. Balestrino, Liguria

Balestrino, Liguria

The episode that forced Balestrino‘s inhabitants to abandon their homes in 1953, was when the town was declared impracticable due to a serious possibility of landslides. A good part of the ghost town is actually now at the centre  of a study and recovery project aiming at the reconstruction of the medieval urban area. This could in a way deprive Balestrino of the peculiar charm of other ghost towns and that is the mysterious and sudden abandon, as if caught in a snapshot taken decades ago!

Walking through the narrow alleys of these crumbling towns can send shivers down your spine, but at the same time you feel glad that the memory of its people’s presence and lives have been preserved forever more.

Have you experienced the haunting beauty of one of these ghost towns?

Bussana Vecchia

Featured Image: Craco

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