Abandoned 11th-Century Town that Now Is a Tourist Attraction

Diana Rus

Craco is a ghost town and comune in the province of Matera, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata.

The town of Craco was abandoned around the end of the 20th century because of poor pipework that was said to have failed and caused a landslide. Craco is now a popular tourist destination and filming location.

Craco was added to the World Monuments Fund's watch list in 2010.

About Craco

Craco is approximately 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Taranto. For defensive purposes, the town was built on a very high hill, giving it a unique aspect and separating it from the surrounding land.

The center, located on the highest point of the town, faces a ridge that runs sharply to the southwest, where newer buildings can be found. The settlement is situated on a 1,300-foot cliff overlooking the Cavone River valley.

Tombs dating back to the eighth century BC have been discovered in the town. The area was populated by Greeks who came inland from the coastal town of Metaponto around 540 BC.

The town's name may be traced back to 1060 AD when the land was owned by Arnaldo, Archbishop of Tricarico, who named the place "Graculum", which means "little plowed field" in Latin. The Church's association with the town had a significant impact on the residents.

From 1154 to 1168, the settlement was ruled by Eberto, a nobleman of Norman descent who established the first feudal power over the town. Then, in 1179, Roberto of Pietrapertosa became Craco's landlord. Craco was an important military center under Frederick II, and the Castle Tower housed Lombard prisoners who fought against the Holy Roman Emperor.

Craco's development

In 1276, the town created a university. The population grew from 450 (1277) to 655 (1477), to 1,718 (1532), to 2,590 in 1561, and then averaged 1,500 in the following century.

By the 15th century, the town had developed and included four large palazzi: Palazzo Maronna near the tower, Palazzo Grossi near the main church, Palazzo Carbone on the Rigirones land, and Palazzo Simonetti.

A plague hit the town in 1656, killing hundreds and diminishing the number of families.

The citizens destroyed the Bourbon feudal system in 1799, with the proclamation of the Parthenopean Republic. Innocenzo De Cesare returned to Naples, where he had studied, and advocated for the formation of an autonomous municipality.

A few months later, the army of Holy Faith crushed the republican revolution, and Craco restored the Bourbon monarchy. Following that, the town was taken over by the Napoleonic occupation. On July 18, 1807, bands of brigands led by the Bourbon government in exile invaded Craco, robbing and killing pro-French notables.

By 1815, the town had grown sufficiently enough to be divided into two districts: Torrevecchia, the highest section near the castle and tower, and "Quarter Della Chiesa Madre", the area near "San Nicola's Church". Craco was seized by brigand bands led by Carmine Crocco after the unification of Italy in 1861.

With the end of the civil war, the town's main challenges became environmental and geological. Over 1,300 Crachesi relocated to North America between 1892 and 1922, primarily owing to poor agricultural conditions.

Becoming an abandoned town

Craco was evacuated in 1963 due to a series of landslides, and the residents relocated to the Craco Peschiera valley. The landslides seem to have been caused by infrastructure projects such as sewer and water systems.

A flood in 1972 exacerbated the situation, preventing the historic center from being repopulated. Craco was completely abandoned during the 1980 Irpinia earthquake.

The descendants of Craco emigrants in the United States founded the "Craco Society" in 2007, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the comune's culture, traditions, and history.

Craco in 1960- three years before the landslide disasterCraco/ Wikipedia

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