A Fascinating Ghost Town

  • Where is Craco?
  • Why visit Craco?
  • Background
  • Timeline
  • What happened next?
  • What happened to the people of Craco?
  • Film Location
  • Guided Visit to Craco
  • When to visit Craco

Where is Craco?

Craco, is a fascinating ghost town, 391 metres above sea level in the province of Matera, Basilicata. Today we see only the remains of the original part of the old town built in the Middle Ages. Fundamental town planning mistakes leading to landslides thereafter and the final blow, an earthquake in the 80s, saw the eventual demise of Craco and brought it to its present collapsed state.

Empty City of Craco (except for the donkeys!)

Why visit Craco?

The story of Craco, its rise and fall, is of historic and cultural interest. It has a rare and breath taking 360° view, a wide expanse of landscape sculptured by the sun, the wind and the rains, seemingly lunar or a desert in the Middle East.

Incredible panoramic landscape

Guided Visit of Craco

 Guided tours of Craco costs 15€ and take around 2 hours including a film which covers a brief introduction to Craco, followed by a walk around the town. You need a good pair of shoes, a bottle of water and energy as it can be quite steep in parts. Tours begin at 10am in the morning.

When to visit Craco?

I would suggest that you visit outside the high season to avoid the baking hot temperatures of summer! Even in October our brows had a film of sweat beneath the obligatory protective headgear after the climb to the top of Craco.


The original construction was built upon a conglomerate of rock blocks and compacted sand and clay, which over millions of years became a natural strong concrete base.  The buildings on this rocky ridge are still standing thanks to the soil resistance. Whereas the surrounding area is much more fragile, a clayey weaker rock which when it interacts with the hydrographic grid, is subject to landslides.


  • 1930s – urbanisation to the surrounding areas, on an unstable clay base, lack of a complete drainage system, introduction of modern sewerage systems, running water etc. caused pipes to break and considerable amounts of water to leak into the underground system. 
  • 1950s – the building of a soccer field, and the triggering factor, further weakened the floor base, as excavation works were carried out to create a level playing field at the foot of the hill
  • 1959 – incessant rainfall for 5 days and floods dealt a heavy blow.
  • 1962 – the landslide began, dragging down all that was built from the 193s onwards, including the sports field and several million cubic meters of land. The first phases of eviction started but not before millions were spent (10-12 million) to consolidate the damage, a consolidation which only added to the worsening of the situation.
  • 1972 & 1979 – further landslides
  • 1980 – if it wasn’t bad enough, the Irpinia earthquake ensured that Craco henceforth was to be empty of life.

What happened next?

Thereafter the town was looted, stripped of anything of value for nearly 30 years, including wrought iron balconies, cables, pipes, bricks etc. before the town was finally closed, protected and in 2010 Craco entered the watchlist of the World Monument Fund, an international organisation that recognised the historic and cultural interest of Craco. By 2015, The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, placed Craco under its guardianship, to prepare it for a Recovery Plan.

What happened to the people of Craco? The Crachesi?

Of the original 2000 stronghold of inhabitants, the Crachesi, 700 live in the nearby Craco Peschiera, 20 in Sant’Angelo, some have emigrated, and others have moved to the northern parts of Italy. Craco Peschiera is enroute to Craco, strange manifestations arise either side of the singular road to Craco with prominently deep indentations in the land which appear to be the leftovers of an earthquake, now overgrown with rambles of unkempt vegetation. But should you divert out of curiosity, at Craco Peschiera, on your journey to Craco, it has a notable sense of lifelessness, without descriptive character, evidently built in haste

Film Vocation

Craco was used in films including scenes from the 2004 film, The Passion of Christ which Mel Gibson directed, James Bond film Quantum of Solace in 2008 and Mary Magdalene in 2016.  Previously in 1985, in King David, another American epic film and Terra Bruciata (Scorched Earth), an Italian film from 1999. Confirming Craco as a film location especially for biblical religious films.