Craco is a ghost town and comune in the province of Matera, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. It was abandoned towards the end of the 20th century, due to faulty pipe work that was thought to have failed, causing the town to be abandoned due to a land slide. The abandonment has made Craco a tourist attraction and a popular filming location. In 2010, Craco was included in the watch list of the World Monuments Fund.[3]

Comune di Craco
The old town of Craco
The old town of Craco
Location of Craco
Craco is located in Italy
Location of Craco in Italy
Craco is located in Basilicata
Craco (Basilicata)
Coordinates: 40°22′43″N 16°26′24″E / 40.37861°N 16.44000°E / 40.37861; 16.44000Coordinates: 40°22′43″N 16°26′24″E / 40.37861°N 16.44000°E / 40.37861; 16.44000
ProvinceMatera (MT)
FrazioniCraco Peschiera
 • MayorVincenzo Lacopeta
 • Total77.04 km2 (29.75 sq mi)
391 m (1,283 ft)
 (December 2008)[2]
 • Total773
 • Density10/km2 (26/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code0835
Patron saintSan Vincenzo Martire di Craco
WebsiteOfficial website


Craco is about 40 km (25 mi) inland from the Gulf of Taranto. The town was built on a very steep summit for defensive reasons, giving it a striking appearance and distinguishing it from the surrounding land. 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 m-high (1,300 ft) cliff that overlooks the Cavone River valley. Throughout the area are many vegetation-less mounds called calanchi (badlands) formed by intensive erosion.


Tombs have been found dating from the 8th century BC. Around 540 BC, the area was inhabited by Greeks who moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto. The town's name can be dated to 1060 AD, when the land was the possession of Arnaldo, Archbishop of Tricarico, who called the area Graculum, which means in Latin "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 a nobleman, Eberto, probably of Norman origin, who established the first feudal control over the town. Then in 1179, Roberto of Pietrapertosa became the landlord of Craco. Under Frederick II, Craco was an important military center and the Castle Tower hosted the Lombard prisoners who fought against the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 1276, a university was established in the town. During the 13th century, Craco became feudal tenure of Muzio Sforza. 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. By the 15th century, four large palazzi 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. During 1656, a plague struck, with hundreds dying and reducing the number of families in the town.

By 1799, with the proclamation of the Parthenopean Republic, the townspeople overthrew the Bourbon feudal system. Innocenzo De Cesare returned to Naples, where he had studied, and promoted an independent municipality. The republican revolution was repressed by the army of Holy Faith few months later and Craco returned under the Bourbon monarchy. Subsequently, the town fell under the control of the Napoleonic occupation. Bands of brigands, supported by the Bourbon government in exile, attacked Craco on July 18, 1807, plundering and killing the pro-French notables.

By 1815, the town was large enough to divide 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, in 1861 Craco was conquered by the bands of brigands headed by Carmine Crocco.

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 1963, Craco began to be evacuated due to a series of landslides and the inhabitants moved to the valley of Craco Peschiera. The landslides seem to have been provoked by works of infrastructure, sewer and water systems.

In 1972 a flood worsened the situation further, preventing a possible repopulation of the historic centre. After the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, the ancient site of Craco was completely abandoned.

In 2007, the descendants of the emigrants of Craco in the United States formed the "Craco Society", a non-profit organization which preserves the culture, traditions, and history of the comune.

In popular cultureEdit


Craco in 1960, 3 years before the landslide disaster
Panoramic view of the town
An aerial view of Craco

Craco has been the setting of many movies, and was the setting for the suicide of Judas in The Passion of The Christ (2004), by Mel Gibson.[4] Other films shot inside or near the ghost town include:



  • French folk band Ödland filmed at Craco the video clip for the song "Santa Lucia", from the album Sankta Lucia (2011).[9]
  • German composer Hauschka wrote the song "Craco", from the album Abandoned City (2014).[10]
  • A music video for "Paradise" (2020) by Italian dance project Meduza featuring Dermot Kennedy took place in Craco.[11]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Italian National Institute of Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ All demographics and other statistics from the Italian statistical institute (Istat)
  3. ^ "Historic center of Craco". Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  4. ^ "The Passion of the Christ". Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Craco Cinema 2014" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Craco Cinema 2014" (in Italian). Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  7. ^ "O Rei Do Gado: Bastidores". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Visit these 3 Places in Italy before they're Ruined by Tour Groups". 8 August 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Ödland – Sankta Lucia". Retrieved 28 May 2019.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Hauschka – UK Headline Tour & 'Elizabeth Bay' Video Premiere". 30 January 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Craco protagonista nel videoclip di "Paradise ft. Dermot Kennedy" dei Meduza con le immagini di Vincenzo Sidonio e Aldo Amati" (in Italian). 31 October 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  12. ^ "David O. Russell to Receive Italian-American Icon Award". 13 October 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014.

External linksEdit