Ghost towns from Italy: Roscigno Vecchia

Many Italian ghost town are in Southern Italy, where a hostile nature and a lacking territory maintenance often cause disastrous rockslides, landslides, floods and earthquakes. One of areas most affected is the Salerno province, where the beautiful ghost village of Roscigno Vecchia is. 

Roscigno rises in the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, an UNESCO natural reserve. Thanks to its isolated position beyond the Alburni mountains, the town remained hidden for a long time to tourists and travellers, and thus kept its original urban structure.
Roscigno’s origins date back to the IV century b.C., but only in 1500 did it became an autonomous municipality, taking its name from the local dialectal word "Ruśignuòlo", meaning nightingale. Built on an unstable ground, however, Roscigno was often subject to landslides which, as time went by and buildings kept collapsing, forced the population to abandon the village. Not everyone left, though, and some remained there for the rest of their lives, like miss Dorina, who stayed in her house until the year 2000 when she passed away, last of Roscigno’s residents.
Roscigno is an out-and-out open-sky museum. Taking a walk through the village is like leaping in the past to discover the culture and the soul of seemingly lost rural community. Even today Roscigno’s streets are walked by flocks of sheep, horses, and farmers going to work in the fields, while the population kept a strong bond with its abandoned village, giving it a new life of some sort.
In 1997, the local “Pro Loco” (associations of volunteers seeking to promote the culture, the history and the activities of a particular place) created a museum to maintain the village’s history: it’s the “Museo della civiltà Contadina” (roughly “Rural Culture Museum”), where the relics and photographs of the past farmer community were collected.
We hope that Roscigno, together with the other ghost towns we’ve visited, will manage to keep existing as a model of ancient rural towns and that it will be known as such in all of its splendour.
Here is a passage from the documentary “Roscigno Vecchia e il Cilento dimenticato” (“Roscigno Vecchia and the forgotten Cilento”).

Ghost towns from Italy: Craco

Placed on the summit of a hill overlooking the Cavone valley, in the region of Basilicata, Craco looks like a small-scale copy of the nearby Matera.
The ancient settlement, which reached a population of 2000, formed on the highest peak of this almost 7 million years old clayey valley. The settlement known as “Graculum”, which in Latin means “small ploughed field”, is documented for the first time in 1060 a.D., but the structure of the village actually dates to a period between 1154 and 1168. Thanks to its position, Craco became a strategically important military centre during the reign of Federico II.
During the XV century the city expanded around the four main palaces: the Maronna Palace with its monumental entrance, the Grossi Palace, with its beautiful vault and floreal pattern, the Carbone Palace, with its XV century monumental entrance, and the Simonetti Palace, with its peculiar medallions. 
In 1799 Craco joined Innocenzo De Cesare’s republican ideals, a movement of the rural middle class which sought to break the ties with the feudal lords, and then fell into silence, until a last, tragic event in 1963…
A large landslide destroyed part of the town, forcing the villagers to progressively leave their homes. The 1972 flood gave another hard blow, and the town slid some more along with the containment walls that were supposed to hold it up. Not everyone was willing to leave the town behind, and some remained there until the day they died.
Today, Craco isn’t sliding anymore and is constantly monitored. Its almost supernatural charms recalls its past glory, its ephemeral beauty seems almost an illusion
Nature is slowly overtaking the town, a town still hiding mysteries and stories about ghosts claiming back their homes in the darkest nights. Some claim they heard harrowing screams and footsteps sounds, or saw dim lights behind the desolating void of an empty window.
Craco’s word-wide fame led it to a fate that it probably would never have imagined, that of a much sought cinema set. Many films were shot here, like Christ stopped at Eboli, King David, Terra Bruciata, Quantum of Solace, and even The Passion, where it was used as the background of Judas’s hanging.
At times Craco is visited by some tourists, attracted by its charm and by the mystery of abandon… unfortunately, though, the place’s politics are aimed towards its economic exploitation and not towards its artistic and cultural promotion, so tourists are charged to enter the village, and are imposed a fine if they don’t pay. This policy of pure economic exploitation stopped us from creating a Ghost Town episode about this beautiful, solitary and silent village…
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(Translation by Marco Salvadori)

Ghost towns from Italy: Galeria Antica

Galeria Antica stands in the countryside north of Rome, just 8 km away from the Braccianese Way. A ghost town buried by vegetation like the ancient Maya ruins, an incredible maze of castle vestiges, Etruscan houses, tombs and places of worship.
Its origins get lost in the mist of time…probably founded under Etruscan domination with the name of Careia, it was a town of little importance guarding the southern borders of Etruscan territory. Later it was colonised by the Romans, as attested by some pointed arches and by some constructions built with the “opus incertum” technique. Galeria then fell during the Germanic invasions, and was populated again only during the Middle Ages. After being seized and destroyed by the Saracens, it was rebuilt and extended, and from 1276 it belonged to the Orsini family. After passing through many owners, it ended in the hands of the Sanseverino family, with whom the town suffered a slow decline until a terrible malaria epidemic decimated its population. In 1809, Galeria Antica was left abandoned.
Malaria was not rare at the time, as the place was subject to the frequent floods from the Arrone creek. What remains a mystery is the reason behind an abandonment so sudden that the people left behind not only tools and furnishings, but even the bodies of their dead, who were buried only half a century later…
After it was left deserted, Galeria became shelter for the shepherds and booty for the bandits, and today its only inhabitants are lizards, birds and vipers living in a twine of brambles and climbing plants. Amongst its ruins are still visible the St. Andrew’s Church’s bell tower, a still intact fortified bastion, the ancient main gate to the dead city, the guard tower still showing faded traces of its clock, and the vestiges of the castle, with its extraordinary system of gates and walls. In its square are still found the ghostly remains of the oven of the governor’s house and of a church. At the town’s secondary gate, the beautiful Roman access arch made of red bricks is still standing. But it is underneath that the ghost town hides its secret, a crypt with its labyrinth of tunnels that still are, and maybe will forever be, unexplored…
An old legend tells of a ghost minstrel named “Senz’affanni” (which means roughly “No worries”), who died around 300 years ago and who returns every year in Galeria, singing and playing for his beloved woman while riding a white horse. Many affirm they heard hoofs and moans, especially in winter. Those who do not believe in the story of the ghost say these sounds are made by the rushing Arrone creek.
Galeria Antica was declared a Natural Monument in 1999, but unfortunately it still remains prey to vandalisms and to unknown sects that use it at night for their ceremonies, attracted by the mysterious aura of a place oozing with death…

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(Translation by Marco Salvadori

Troy Paiva's night visions

Troy Paiva is a talented American contemporary artist who has been exploring since 1970 his homeland, particularly California, walking abandoned and forgotten places. In 1989 he started taking photographs of these places, drawing the outline of a hidden and often inaccessible America. His shots are taken with an unique light and exposure that transform every abandoned building or object into something different from both what it was and what it has become. Fascinated by moonlit nights, Paiva manages to immortalise time and silence, to create suggestive images that look as if they belonged to a parallel universe, decadent and enigmatic. Using very long exposure times, up to 8 minutes, a strobe flash and light filters, he manages to create those particular light effects which transform objects and shadows.
These incredible pictures portray car shells, ruined buildings, ghost towns, gas stations, abandoned planes, old trains, motels, disused military bases, ghost ships and anything that was forgotten by man, which thanks to his creations enter a new dimension of space-time thanks to his creations. At the centre of his works is the effect of human activities on the environment, often with devastating consequences. Ecological denunciation is the fundamental theme of his art, exposing the problem of disposal of waste like aeroplanes, cars and ships. In fact, batteries, plastics, oil and various chemical substances disperse in the environment, damaging local flora and fauna. Even gas station are an often underestimated source of pollution. Beneath each station are held 20.000 litres tanks, and any leak can pollute wide underground areas, and eventually even the groundwater. 

Paiva’s night photography was published in two monographs: “Lost America” (2003) and “Night Vision” (2008). These books contain all of the artist’s urban exploration and the eerie, mysterious atmosphere he manages to extract from the ruins of the modern world and the nightmares of industrial expansion. “Our society”, says the photographer, “seems to be living in something of a ‘golden age’ of abandon, everything is renewed too easily, at times for no reason, within the time of a few years things become obsolete and so we can’t but get rid of them, scattering every kind of ruins around the world.”

You can find more of Troy Paiva’s beautiful pictures at his website:

Other links:

Experiments on a city without humans

A city of the future with the most advanced technologies, new and with every comfort, but completely without humans…it’s not the plot of a science fiction movie, but an unbelievable reality.

This high-tech ghost town should soon rise in New Mexico, somewhere between Albuquerque and Las Cruces. This project is provided with a 200 millions dollars budget and plans the construction of 20 square miles city with streets, freeways, a business district, lighting, water, gas, and residential areas with buildings and houses able to accommodate 35.000 people. This avant-garde city will hold the sinister name of The Center, and will be an immense laboratory provided by the owners (the Pegasus Global Holdings) to companies and institutions planning on experimenting new technologies on the field, where human behaviour will be computer-generated. After all, New Mexico is no newcomer to large scale experiments. It is not far from the city of Alamogordo, in the Jornada del Muerto desert, that in July 16th 1945 the first atomic bomb was detonated, and many other nuclear tests took place.
The Center will be a complex and expensive project, and what kind of tests will be performed there is yet unknown, but its business surely comprises the ambition of tourism. Indeed, the construction of a urban area was also planned at the borders of the robotic city, with a reception centre for those who’d like to try the unreal sensation of walking in a hypertechnological but deserted city. An experience much like that of Tom Cruise in a scene of the film “Vanilla Sky” where he finds himself in a eerily empty Time Square… 

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(Translation by Marco Salvadori

Sanzhi: the mysterious UFO village

Sanzhi is a small village built on the coast of Taiwan between the late 70s and early 80s. These mysterious houses gave origin to a series of legends on aliens and paranormal phenomena even claiming the village to be cursed. They call them “UFO houses”, and the several photographs taken of the place clearly show the reason…

At first impact, the village looks like an alien town out of a science fiction film, but actually it is an abandoned town, or rather, a town that maybe never was occupied. These incredible twenty-some three-family buildings with private gardens and communal swimming pools are the work of the visionary Yu Zi, who worked under Taiwan government’s commission in its intent to promote and exploit the area as a seaside resort. The UFO houses derive from a trend born in the late 60s from movies like Mika Taanila’s “A new stance for tomorrow” and from such publications like “Tomorrow’s house from yesterday” tracing a “Retro-futurism”, an imaginary future in a past that never existed. The energetic crisis in the late 80s, however, didn’t allow the completion of the buildings, which were then bought by a local beer company with the intention of transforming the village in a five stars touristic resort, going for an even more minimalistic look: white houses, with bright interiors and a “The clockwork orange”-inspired design. But in the same year the company decided to halt the construction: some sources say that a lot of strange incidents took place during the works, and that these stories scared the people to the point of them advising the tourists against going to the area, convinced that in the UFO houses dwelled the spirits of those who died there. Apparently there was something sinister about the project, a curse of some sort that didn’t let anyone who took it up finish the work. 

The incomplete buildings of the UFO houses suffered a progressive structural decay over time, and the vegetation overtook every building. Inside it’s still possible to find furniture, beds, sofas, furnishings and fittings of any kind, making the place look like it was once inhabited. This is because, in Taiwan, when a residence is set for sale, one or more flats are furnished to demonstrate how the rooms can be set up. On sunny days, the alien village, with its various and vivid colours, looks like an abandoned recreation ground. But when the sky is dark, the landscapes takes surreal tones and the atmosphere becomes ominous: it’s like travelling through time to the ruins of the future.

Unfortunately, it looks like these mysterious buildings, destination for photographs and curious from all around the world, have now been demolished… as always, we create anything but get back nothing.
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(Translation by Marco Salvadori)

Lost jurneys: Rubjerg Knude, The Sands Lighthouse

Rubjerg Knude is an unusual and unknown destination, but surely it doesn’t lack of fascination and mystery. Even if from the pictures it can seem a mirage in the desert, or the creation of some artist’s fantasy, this abandoned place exists for real. 

The Rubjerd Knude in fact is situated on the coast of the North Sea, in Jutland, Denmark.
Its construction began in 1899 and it’s been lit for the first time the December 27 of 1900. The lighthouse, which stands 60 meters on the sea level, on a cliff in the city of Lønstrup, has operated with gas until 1908. The shifting sands and the strong coastal erosion, caused its closedown the August 1st of 1968. The coast, in fact, is eroded on the average of 1,5 meters every year, and the dunes shift of 9 meters per year.
From the day of its shutdown, the lighthouse and the surrounding buildings have been used for some time as a museum and a cafeteria, but the continuous movement of the sands, and the disastrous effect of erosion, caused the final abandonment in 2002. Today, the surrounding buildings, damaged by the continuous pressure of the sand, have been removed, while the lighthouse still resists to the strength of the wind, although it’s estimated that soon it will be completely submerged by the sand.

A magical and enchanting place, where you can stop perceiving the time, which here is defined only by the perpetual movement of the sands modelled by the wind. The Sands Lighthouse, which by now has it’s days numbered before being completely submerged, it’s a destination of undoubted charm for who is going to discover the beautiful Danish territory, and it’s easily accessible. In this site, you can find some handful informations: Rubjerg Knude kultur-og Naturhistorie.

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(Translation by Alessandro Zanchi