- FEBRUARY 2018 -
HOME - Bridge Italy - Bologna - Craco The “second life” of a ghost town
The “second life” of a ghost town
Abandoned after a landslide at the beginning of the 1960s, today Craco, still deserted, is a tourist destination that attracts crowds of visitors and also a sought-after location for film and advertising from all over the world by Lino Patruno
SHARE Facebook Twitter

Craco (Matera). Photo by Nicola Amato

When I first went there, in 1987, Craco had been abandoned for some time. It was the landslide in 1963 that had made its two thousand inhabitants flee down the valley, from the 391-meter hill that could not stand firm. In front there were the eroded gullies of Lucania, a lunar landscape of stone terribly scarred by water. In 1972 a flood did the rest, then came the ill-advised works on the aqueduct, and finally the earthquake in 1980.

But even though Craco was already a ghost town, it seemed not to be. Its houses had been left with all their life still inside, almost as if one day they might be filled with people again, and would breathe afresh. Curtains waving in the breeze. Windows ajar. A pan still on the stove. A teddy bear. And here a table laid and ready. Covers on a bed. Voices, colors, smells and tastes were missing but it was as if they were there. Put on pause, we would say today. And there were a few diehards who really were still there, old people that wanted to die there. As well as a cat coming down off a roof. And the town seemed to be watching with its staring eyes hoping not to be forgotten.

Thirty years later, under a cruel August sun, the visitors swarm like pilgrims to a cemetery more than to a museum. Because Craco is still there. However all signs of real life have vanished, swept away by men rather than by time. After systematic looting, there are no longer even the floors, the garden fences have been pulled up and entrance doors removed. They have been taken away not like a relic of common compassion, but as a sign of barbarity that cancels everything out, starting from the past. The organ has been stolen from the church, leaving only the statues of the saints, just in case, you never know.

But in spite of everything, the tragic beauty of one of the world’s hundred places to save seems to have endured all the insults. It owes its unexpected tourist success to its cruel fate, seeing that since the last mid-August holiday hundreds of visitors have walked through its pain. Indeed, they have introduced a “Craco card” in order to go through the safe part. There are thousands every year, speaking every language on the planet, drawn here by this Pompei in the fragile, troubled yet incomparably beautiful land of Basilicata.

It ought to be protected by a bell jar, up there on the hill, where it suddenly appears before those arriving along roads once trodden by bandits. Standing tall like a monument, aloof as a memorial, sad as a shroud, thrilling as a vision. The outcome of a fate that needed it dead so it could be brought to life. How could little Craco ever have imagined it would become the global product it is today. They say it’s been the location for over ten movies, none of which were horror, and one was even a 007 of my name’s Bond, James Bond fame. As well as television commercials for all kinds of new automobiles, on those breathtaking winding roads. There was one for Pepsi for the Japanese market. And also a Brasilian soap. This is its unimaginable “second life”. Its uniqueness is also its final destiny.

It is hard to imagine its reconstruction, of which the technical aspect will not be as challenging as the bureaucratic side. The owners of the houses cannot be found. The order to evacuate has never been withdrawn, but forgotten with the passing of time and the emigration of its people. But above all Craco is providential, enabling guides, cooperatives and associations to make a living using the products of modernity. And so the ghost town will continue to stare at us forever, grim and heart-breaking and resigned. It will no longer attract us only as an unearthly alien place, the remains of a cosmic wreck, but with the secret hope of telling us its story, once upon a time, when a child played with a teddy bear.

More articles
Culture   Eugenio Barba On Life and Theatrical Thought and Practice Culture   Mark Bradford and Wade Guyton Million dollar American art that’s taking Italy by storm Culture   “Poverty is sexist” The young ambassadors of ONE in Paris against extreme poverty Culture   The middle-eastern origin of blown glass, the pride of Venice Culture   “You don’t know the South” 
The culture of the South relaunched in Otranto Culture   Those Southern women who express the world Culture   Andy Warhol The immortal guru of Pop Art Culture   “Angels and saints in Chicago and Baltimora” Cultural exchanges between the University of Bari and the US Culture   Those farm women, thrilled at their first sight of the sea… Culture   My Puglia as seen from the UN Culture   Forty young Italians with ONE for the fight against world hunger Culture   “American Dreamers” The new dream of eleven American artists on show in Florence Culture   The Fulbright Project? An extraordinary opportunity for a cultural exchange
Books   Not even love transforms the Stock Exchange of destinies Books   And the dream of conquest turned into a mirage of the desert Books   Joseph’s Gargano Books   The tragedy of Mattmark A book so as not to forget Books   Journey through the gardens of Italy Books   When poetry investigates “time” Books   Amidst the storms of life it’s the strength of a loving heart that wins Books   That valley in the Gargano so rich in history that must not be forgotten Books   Grottaglie and its pottery through the life of the benefactor Vincenzo Calò Books   Eighty years of joyful culture Books   Sergeant Romano’s siege like in a movie Books   The magnificent eighty Books   San Marco in Lamis seen from its bell-tower Books   A great love for splendid Castro Books   Better not come home... Letters between Italy and America during the first World War Books   Story of a poet between Puglia and America Books   Worked to death under the sun of Puglia Books   When forgotten objects tell a life story Books   Masserie of Puglia Journey amidst Beauty Books   An excursion into the Salentine dialect … Mai pe iabbu Books   The moral revival of the South can start from its “best” Books   Life, anyway! Books   Rainbow of women Books   Amidst the mountains of Val d’Aosta …in pursuit of the culprit Books   …Once upon a time there was the past Writing about it to preserve the memory Books   Disorder and experimentation in the museum-houses of Ignazio Apolloni Books   Salento stories …in search of lost time Books   Pietro Marti, the great standard-bearer of Salento culture Books   Even tycoons cry Books   If a “whale” island appears one night out of nowhere… Books   From his ancestral Calabria to Roma Precious memories of a lifetime Books   The importance of rediscovering “fraternity” Books   In the wax museum to seek the dream of a better world Books   Naples “Kissed by God and raped by Man” Books   Once upon a time there was the padre-padrone Books   Second World War The drama of the fallen Books   On the Savannah lagoons …to heal Books   The meaning of the 20th century in the saga of the Stille family Books   In Fellini’s La dolce vita the germs of today’s Italy Po Delta   The Po Delta park Natural beauty and history Bari   “Cieli americani” in Bari Verona   Verona Shakespeare celebrated its beauty without ever having seen it Courmayeur   Courmayeur All the charm of the low season Ferrara   You can still dream in Ferrara Ferrara   “Action!” Amongst Ferrara’s myriad sets Music   Porretta Soul Festival The Italian Woodstock of black American music Matera   Pasolini-Matera Fifty years ago the first Gospel in the Sassi Naples   “Wood Stone and Friends” Jimmie Durham’s magic vitalism at the MADRE Naples   Art miracles at Vigna San Martino Naples   The Hermann Nitsch Museum From horror to awareness Bologna   Do you want to be FICO? In Bologna you can Bologna   Bologna “The Learned”, “The Fat”, “The Red” Bologna   At the MAMbo Arte Povera on display Polignano   From Brooklyn to Polignano Twelve artists out to conquer Europe Movies   With The Revenant DiCaprio rises again and aims for the Oscar Movies   Quo Vado? When the southern redneck turns politically correct Movies   When the cinema returns to the future Best of Italy   Andria Pietro Zito’s vegetable garden This is where his prize-winning dishes originate Best of Italy   The best Milanese panettone is… Salentine San Marino   “From Hopper to Warhol” on the gentle hills of San Marino San Marino   San Marino Historic appeal amidst breathtaking panoramas Turin   Reggia di Venaria Reale A treasure rediscovered Turin   The Egyptian Museum of Turin The immortal appeal of the Pharaohs Turin   “For President” Photogenic qualities will win the elections Padua   So much… In the city of the three “withouts” Milan   EXPO 2015 Not just food Milan   The oneiric inspirations of Joan Jonas Milan   “Autunno americano” Milan celebrates the States Milan   MILAN The metropolis is still “to drink” (…and “to eat”) Rome   “Empire State” New York is still the epicenter of art Venice   The immortal charm of the 
“Queen of the Sea” Venice   So many “Illumi/nations” with the Biennale d’Arte Rovigo   History and Art In the capital of the Polesine Rovigo   “Divisionism, the light of what is modern” 200 works on show in Rovigo