Balestrino: the ancient charm of a ghost village.




Balestrino has its own particular appeal, that of a medieval village being slowly taken back by nature after being abandoned by man… 

Where today stands the imposing Del Carretto castle, in Byzantine age was probably built a fortified position, around which then rose the Burgus Plebis of Balestrino, from which the “Borgo” district, now abandoned, developed. The other districts of Bergalla, Cuneo and Poggio formed in early Middle Ages as the first real residential settlement, improving their agricultural activities and moving their olive, legume and cereal farming up on the mountainsides thanks to the use of terrace cultivation, typical of the Liguria region. In feudal times the Bava, a noble family from Piemonte, became the first lords of the Balestrino feud, and built the first castle. The feud then was passed to the Del Carretto marquises who, around mid-XVI century, built their castle on the rock overlooking the village. Between 1515 and 1559 king Pirro II issued a number of edicts that burdened families with heavy taxes and work provisions; but the village notables, used to having an almost complete freedom, didn’t accept these edicts and prepared a conspiracy…
In 1561 Pirro II was killed and his castle burned down. The feud remained in the hands of the Del Carretto, who in order to prevent more riots established a court with torture chambers. Despite this, Balestrino knew an age of great expansion, becoming a sort of economic capital for the entire valley. After Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation, in XVIII century, however, it became the scene of dramatic events: the people defended strenuously their territory, through battles and retaliations, but with poor results and the deaths of many villagers. After becoming part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, Balestrino was annexed to Piemonte, and then, when the Kingdom of Italy was formed in 1860, definitively to Liguria.

The Del Carretto castle still dominates the beautiful sea-facing valley, in memory of the time when it was surrounded by a lively village with a solid mill, furnace and soap-based economy. Today Balestrino is a lifeless town, where the signs of time can be read in the cracks in the walls and in the weeds slowly eating its foundations. A time no longer told by the sundial and the church’s clock is faceless. 

The episode that forced the townspeople to abandon their homes and move to the surroundings, in what is today Balestrino’s population centre, took place in 1953, when the town had been declared impracticable: a serious geological instability posed a threat to the village and its inhabitants…
The abandoned part of Balestrino is about 1,5 hectares wide, with over 44000 square metres of recoverable structures. A good part of the buildings suffers from a solidity-compromising decay, but is today at the centre of a study and recovery project aiming at the complete reconstruction of the medieval urban space. This project could restore Balestrino to its former medieval charm, but would surely deprive it of the peculiarity that sets it apart from other ancient towns: its crumbling and mysterious condition of abandon, as if immortalized in a snapshot taken decades ago.
The various legends, mysteries and popular beliefs passed down during the centuries and told around the fireplace have always influenced the town’s story, and now duel its ghostly charm at night and echo among sinister noises and shadows…
Balestrino’s charm spread well beyond national borders, ranking among the twenty most famous and eerie ghost towns in the world. For this reason it was chosen as location for the movie “Inkheart”, a fantasy story set in the real world in which the village is brought back to live after years of abandon. In fact, it was turned into Capricorn Village and partially rebuilt through special effects letting us witness the village how it probably once was, with people walking the streets, merchants, guards, everyday life’s activities…
Walking through the narrow alleys sends shivers to the mind, which wanders back in time with imagination, trying to visualise people standing behind the black, empty windows, without finding anything but the lonely remains of that life. Balestrino is a ghost town which preserves not only the memory of its people’s presence, but also a trace of man’s passage…

Link to ORIGINAL POST.
(Translation by Marco Salvadori)

8 comments:

  1. hey, does anyone know who the owners are of the balestrino castle? we've been there and been told that the owners are from abroad and live in the castle rom time to time.

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  2. The link to the video doesn't work. Update the link - I'd like to watch that

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    1. Sorry but the documentary isn't longer online.

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    2. is there a place to order the documentary in English? I'm going to visit Balestrino next summer and love your photos and videos! any links are appreciated. -TJ

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    3. You can find the link to buy it here: http://www.ebay.it/itm/Ghost-Town-Balestrino-LAntico-Respiro-Di-Un-Borgo-Fantasma-DVD-NUOVO-S-/251970278490?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_101&hash=item3aaa99545a
      But it isn't in english. There are an english version but it isn't for sale on e-bay... Sorry! =(

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  3. It might be mine im a balestrino and my family is originally from Italy, eould be nice,lol

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