Ever wondered what an Italian ghost town looks like? The answer is very very different from what American boomtown - ghost towns like Bodie in California look like. Craco is a ghost town in the southern Italian province of Matera that was abandoned towards the end of the 20th century.

Today it is a famous tourist attraction in southern Italy and is just waiting to be added to one's already brimming bucket list of things to see and do in Italy. Italy is a country of seemingly endless wonders and history that, it would seem, would take a lifetime to do justice to.


Ancient History And Abandonment of Craco

Craco has had a long history of habitation with tombs there being dated from the 8th century BC. From around 540 BC the area became colonized by the Greeks as they moved inland from their coastal settlement of Metaponto.

  • First Tombs: Dated To The 8th Century BC
  • 540 BC: The Area Became Colonized by Greeks

The name is around 1,000 years old being traced back to 1060 AD - that that time the land was the possession of one Arnaldo, Archbishop of Tricarico. In 1276 there was even a university established in the town and managed to reach a population of 2,590 in 1561.

  • Population: Peaked at 2,590 in 1561 - Averaged around 1,500 In The Centuries Thereafter

By around the turn of the century (1900), locals were leaving en mass for North America mostly because of the poor agricultural conditions at Craco. Then in 1963, Craco began to be evacuated due to a series of landslides and the remaining residents moved into the valley of Craco Peschiera. These landslides were human-caused because of works of infrastructure, sewer, and water systems.

  • Emigration: Many Of the Inhabitants Left For North America

A 1972 flood made it even worse and then in 1980 an earthquake left Craco completely abandoned.

Related: The Monastery Is One Of The Most Iconic In Italy (And It's More Impressive In Person)

Craco Today And What To Expect

It is located around 25 miles or 40 kilometers from the Gulf of Taranto and was built atop the rather steep 400-meter high summit for defensive purposes. The town center was built on the highest side of the town facing a steep ridge and gazes out over the Cavone River Valley.

  • Cliff: Craco Sits On A 400-metre-high (1,300 feet) Cliff

While most American boomtowns were abandoned after the gold, silver, or other resource ran out, Craco was abandoned due to a landslide.

Today Craco is a popular tourist attraction and a noted filming location. It is also included on the watch list of the World Monuments Fund.

Some of the more notable movies filmed there have been:

  • The Passion of The Christ (2004): The Setting For Judas' Suicide
  • King David (1985): By Bruce Beresford
  • Quantum of Solace (2008): By Marc Forster
  • Basilicata Coast to Coast (2010): By Rocco Papaleo

Tours Of Craco

There are a number of tours that one can take of Craco. Sometimes these tours combine the trip with other attractions in the area like Aliano.

Matera Tours offers a day tour that starts with visiting the charming Italian town of Aliano. The town is famous for being where a famous artist/activist spent a year in exile in the 1930's. The tour retraces his steps at the Carlo Levi House & Museum and then enjoys lunch at a quaint, traditional restaurant with local Italian cuisine.

After a hearty lunch, the tour movies on to the mysterious & hauntingly beautiful abandoned town of Craco where one will learn about its complex & tragic demise.

  • Cost: Varies By Tour Group Size
  • Duration: Leave Matera at 8:30 a.m. & Return by Around 6:30 pm

Related: Visit The Pantheon In Rome To See One Of Its Most Well-Preserved Ancient Ruins

The Nearby Cave Dwelling City of Matera

The James Bond movie franchise returned to this region of Italy with the opening scenes of the latest installment of James Bond,  No Time To Die, beginning shot in the cave-dwelling Italian settlement of Matera.

Matera is famous for its ancient town the "Sassi di Matera". The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte settlement (a troglodyte settlement is one where the inhabitants are inhabiting caves). These are even thought to be some of the first-ever human settlements in Italy.

Matera could be even the third oldest city in the world (after Aleppo and Jericho), and like Craco was nearly evacuated in the 1950s.

  • Oldest: Matera May Be One Of The Oldest Continuously Inhabited Settlements In The World
  • Heritage: Listed As A UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • 1,500: Number of Cave Dwellings Honeycombing The Ravine

Besides James Bond, it has stared in other movies including “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), “Ben-Hur” (2016), and “Mary Magdalene” (2018).

Matera is one of the favored filming locations in the world. In fact, over 80 films of all types have been shot here downtown. One can take a James Bond tour and discover Matera's squares and streets used in the filming for Daniel Craig's final 007 movie. One will see some of the most spectacular scenes along the way.

  • Duration: 2 Hours Max
  • When: Year-Round
  • Cost: Query For A Quote

Next: Check Out These 'No Time To Die' Cave Hotels In Matera, Italy