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Comune di Craco
The old town of Craco
The old town of Craco
Craco is located in Italy
Location of Craco in Italy
Coordinates: 40°22′43.16″N 16°26′25.25″E / 40.3786556°N 16.4403472°E / 40.3786556; 16.4403472Coordinates: 40°22′43.16″N 16°26′25.25″E / 40.3786556°N 16.4403472°E / 40.3786556; 16.4403472
Country Italy
Region Basilicata
Province Matera (MT)
Frazioni Craco Peschiera
 • Total 76 km2 (29 sq mi)
Elevation 391 m (1,283 ft)
Population (December 2008)[1]
 • Total 773
 • Density 10/km2 (26/sq mi)
Demonym Crachesi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 75010
Dialing code 0835
Patron saint San Nicola
Website Official website

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

The old town was abandoned in 1963 due to recurring landslides. The abandonment has made Craco a tourist attraction and a popular filming location. In 2010, Craco has been included in the watch list of the World Monuments Fund.


Craco is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) inland from the Gulf of Taranto at the instep of the “boot” of Italy. It is typical of the hill towns of the region with mildly undulating shapes and the lands surrounding it sown with wheat. The town was built on a very steep summit for defensive reasons, giving it a stark and striking appearance and distinguishing it from the surrounding land which is characterized by soft shapes.

The centre, built on the highest side of the town, faces a ridge which runs steeply to the southwest where newer buildings exist. The town sits atop a 400-metre (1,300 ft) high cliff that overlooks the Cavone River valley. Throughout the area are many vegetation-less mounds called calanchi (Italian word for badlands) formed by intensive erosion.


Around 540, the area was called “Montedoro” and inhabited by Greeks who moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto. Tombs have been found dating from the 8th century suggesting the original settlement dates back to then. The town’s name can be dated to 1060 when the land was the possession of Archbishop Arnaldo, Bishop of Tricarico, who called the area “GRACHIUM” which means "from the little plowed field." This long association of the Church with the town had a great influence on the inhabitants.

From 1154 to 1168, the control of the village passed to Eberto who established the first feudal control over the town. Then in 1179, Roberto di Pietrapertos became the landlord of Craco. In 1276, a university was established in town. During this period in the 13th century, the landmark castle was built under the direction of Attendolo Sforza. In 1293, under Federico II, the Castle Tower became a prison. By the 15th century, four large plazas had developed in the town: Palazzo Maronna near the tower, Palazzo Grossi near the big church, Palazzo Carbone on the Rigirones property, and Palazzo Simonetti.

The population increased from 450 (1277), to 655 (1477), to 1,718 (1532) until reaching 2,590 in 1561; and averaged 1,500 in succeeding centuries. During 1656, a plague struck with hundreds dying and reducing the number of families in the town.

By 1799, the townspeople overthrew the feudal system and Innocenzo De Cesare returned to Naples, where he had studied, and promoted an independent Municipality. Subsequently, the town fell under the control of the Italian King and thereafter ruled by a period of French occupation. By 1815, the town was large enough to divide it into two districts: Torrevecchia – the highest area adjacent to the castle and tower, and Quarter della Chiesa Madre – the area adjacent to San Nicola’s Church

After the unification of Italy, Craco was conquered by Carmine Crocco and there was a growth of “brigands” in the area who plagued the town until the mid-1860s. With the end of the civil strife the greatest difficulty the town faced became environmental and geological.

From 1892 to 1922, over 1,300 Crachesi migrated to North America mainly due to poor agricultural conditions. In 2007, the descendants of the immigrants of Craco in the United States formed "The Craco Society".



Ruins of Craco
Interior of an abandoned building

Because of its unique and particular landscape Craco has been the setting of many movies. In The Passion of The Christ (2004) by Mel Gibson, Craco is the town that can be seen in the scene of the hanging of Judas.

Other films shot in the ghost town include:


Craco was chosen among the locations for the Brazilian telenovela O Rei do Gado, directed by Luiz Fernando Carvalho.[2]


  • French band Ödland filmed at Craco the video clip for the song "Santa Lucia", from the album Sankta Lucia (2011).
  • German pianist Hauschka composed the song "Craco" about the ghost town, from the album Abandoned City (2014).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ All demographics and other statistics from the Italian statistical institute (Istat)
  2. ^ "O Rei Do Gado: Bastidores". Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Hauschka – UK Headline Tour & 'Elizabeth Bay' Video Premiere". 30 January 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 

External links[edit]