As an Englishman, the chance to visit an area of the world which was once used as a set for a James Bond 007 movie is terribly exciting. From the moment I received my #helloBasilicata itinerary a visit to Craco stood out a country mile as something I thought I would love and learn a lot from. But whilst I did learn a lot, there were mixed emotions as I followed my guide and fellow visitors through this town come movie set. Where I set foot over the course of our hour long tour, fetching yellow hard hat on head, was only some 50 years ago, home to some 1800 Italians. Now it was deserted.
Cause for abandonment
The medieval village of Craco is typical of the hill towns in the Basilicata region. Built high up on a rocky hillside so to protect itself from invaders. However, what looked like a suitable hilltop from which to set up a small Italian town was in fact seemingly an accident just waiting to happen. Whilst part of the hilltop was made from solid rock, other parts were simply made up of clay.
During the mid-Twentieth Century recurring earthquakes began to batter and bruise the town, and between 1959 and 1972 Craco was almost totally destroyed by a series of landslides. Whilst the threat of such devastation had been known to scientists in the area since 1910, little was done to prevent such catastrophes and so as a result the ultimate price was paid. Starting in 1963, the 1800 inhabitants of Craco were evacuated to a safer area within Basilicata.
Fast forward to present day and the gates to Craco are locked, its a ghost town, and without a guide and a ticket, you are not getting in!
My visit to Craco
Even from the minibus window, as we wove left and right up the hillside, it was hard to miss Craco. Sitting plum atop a striking hillside, it was hard to miss.
First stop was the tour office, where our tickets were purchased and facilities utilised. Next it was a 2 minute drive up to the front gate where our hard hats were handed out, and where we could also fill up on some cooling water.
As mentioned above, without a ticket and a guide, you are not getting into Craco. The only living beings who are allowed inside the locked gates without, are a heard of sheep who roam the hillside and broken roads.
As we walked up what must have once been a main access road, Craco looked for the most part like a mini Matera, just somewhat rougher around the edges. A lot rougher around the edges, in fact edges might have been missing entirely. Who am I kidding, the town was a mess, crumpled into a state of disrepair and looted for all it was worth, but that said, it was still a beautiful kind of mess, one with cobbled streets, high arching doorways, beautifully tiled roofs, intricate staircases, great towers and long stretching balconies.
As we reached the summit of the access road, we found ourselves at the base of what looked to be the city hub. It was here that the level of destruction at the hands of those landslides became more apparent. Our guide confirmed that this part of the town was that which was built upon the clay, and as such suffered the worst of the damage. Looking around we could see that entire sides of buildings were missing, and scaffolding held up those walls which would no doubt have followed suit and tumbled into the valley below. It was actually quite difficult to comprehend that less than 50 years ago, this area of the town would have been buzzing with life.
The route which the tour takes is pretty set, there is no deviation to be had as the guide ensures your safety as best he/she can throughout. Area’s you should not access are clearly marked, and in most cases boarded up or roped off … using barbed wire. Its cool though, you get to visit all the best bits that Craco still has to offer, including the top of the highest tower which offers unrivaled views of the surrounding area.
Built upon a hillside with the safety of its population in mind, the views over the surround region were a significant bonus. No doubt the views were all part of the safety element, invaders could be spotted a mile away from such a vantage point, but anyone assigned to lookout duty would have had a tough time concentrating on scouting potential threats I reckon, so spectacular were the views over Basilicata from the top of the tower.
Tickets and bookings
A ticket and tour of Craco will set you back a more than affordable 10 euro per person, however bookings in advance do not appear to be an option. On site there is ticket office, from which you can purchase tour tickets and arrange a guide.
More info might be obtained by emailing ahead prior to your visit firstname.lastname@example.org
My visit to Basilicata and tour of Caraco was arranged by Basilicata Turistica as a part of their #helloBailicata initiative to promote tourism in Basilicata through bloggers and social media users like myself. I am under no obligation to write this post or any others that may follow, but have done so purely because I believe the ghost town to be a significant point of interest in the Basilicata region and Italy. As such all opinions are my own. I tell you no lies.