Forget the grandeur of Rome, Florence or Venice.
Italy has nearly 20,000 ghost towns that are totally or partly abandoned, the locals having fled due to a mix of factors.
Harsh living conditions, including lack of running water and electricity, pirate raids, natural calamities such as quakes and floods, bombings and massive emigration flows triggered by the appeal of a better life in larger cities and in the Americas, have all contributed to the abandoned villages.
But these crumbling ruins are secret gems stuck in a moment in time the rest of the world has long forgotten.
Yet it isn’t just the curious tourists exploring Italy’s ghost towns.
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Beautiful: Italy’s landscape is dotted with ghost towns like this one, Civita di Bagnoreggio, known as the ‘Dying City’
Falling:Towns like Santo Stefano Sextantio have been abandoned slowly, as people went to look for jobs elsewhere
Those looking for a deal can certainly get one here, and for a snip of the price of a London flat.
Offers are crazy: with a few thousand euros you can purchase one or more buildings. Then there are entire villages put on the market by the desperate few remaining residents, who hope to save their homes from crumbling back into the mountainous landscape.
Indeed, there are even a few bargains to be had when it comes to snapping up your own hamlet. Pratariccia, which was put up for sale on eBay in 2012 for £2million, is now on sale once more – this time for just £1.84million.
The 800-year-old village of Prataricca, put on the market last month, has 25 properties which nestle up alongside fertile farmland – yet has been abandoned since the 60s.
Set in beautiful rolling hills 2,400ft above sea level, Pratariccia is only 25 miles east of Florence and close to the region of Italy dubbed ‘Chiantishire’ for its abundance of British residents and holidaymakers.
And yes, it is going to need a bit of work – but considering one ruins are given a make over their value may jump 300 per cent, it is certainly worth a go.
But if you fancy something smaller, or just a nose around a few abandoned villages, then you could do worse than visiting some of these.
CIVITA DI BAGNOREGGIO
Stunning: Civita di Bagnoreggio is known as the ‘Dying City’, as it has been crumbling since the first buildings were finished
Historical: Civita di Bagnoreggio was the ‘jewel city’ of the Tiber Valley during the Estrucan period (768BC to 264BC)
It’s been dubbed the ‘Dying City’, and with good reason.
Since the day of its birth 2,500 years ago it’s been progressively disintegrating due to soil erosion.
Each day pieces of the turf cliff on which it is perched crumble into the surrounding precipice and little has been done, and can be done, to secure the village.
Built by the Etruscans, it was a prosperous trade centre – the ‘jewel city’ of the Tiber Valley.
A violent quake then occurred in the 1300s that increased the landslides. The final blow to the village was dealt when the only bridge was bombed during the war.
Now a single metal catwalk connects it to the main road – and those few that remain know, should it fall, the Dying City will finally be confined to history.
Hill top: The town was built in 2,500 years ago, but has always been in danger of collapse due to soil erosion
There are ghost towns across the country – and here with have pictures of some of the most stunning (marked on the map)
ROCCHETTA AL VOLTURNO
Great: Rocchetta al Volturno was once an important monastic court – but has since been abandoned
Cave men were the first inhabitants of Rocchetta al Volturno.
Set in Molise, an region of Italy and hour and a half from Naples, this is where monks found refuge in the ninth century from the Norman invaders, making it one of the most important monastic courts of the peninsula.
The town developed around the monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno, protected by Charlemagne and later sacked by the Saracens.
A series of earthquake struck across the centuries but its decline began in the 1800s, when families migrated to the U.S. and Canada, lured by the hope of a better life across the ocean.
During the Second World War, the town found itself right along the Gustav Line, sealing its fate: when the Allies bombed the fortress, it was the end.
However, it does now mean a property in this abandoned village is a bargain. Prices start at 100 euros per square metre (11 square feet) – loose change to those considering buying in Kensington, where prices are on average £11,000 per square metre.
Downfall: Earthquakes and war eventually led to the village being abandoned – not to mention migration to the Americas
Fortress: Rocca Calascio was one an important fortress for the Medici family, which controlled central Italy with its help
Powerful: Over the years, the Florentine family boasted four Popes and two French queens among their number
Rocca Calascio is probably the most isolated town in the Abruzzi, the province to the east of Rome.
Founded by the Normans, the overhanging fortress became part of a defensive system of look-out towers against enemy attacks which belonged to the powerful Florentine Medici family, who were able control all of central Italy from here.
The grandeur ended when the fortress, which was used as a set in the film Lady Hawk, was rocked by a violent earthquake in 1703.
The terrified residents moved downhill and since then, sheep and shepherd dogs are the sole inhabitants.
Destruction: But their fortress was destoyed by a quake in the early 1700s – about the same time the family’s fortunes began to wither
Decaying: Now all the remains are the crumbling ruins, home to dogs and sheep
Vantage point: The clear view of the lands surrounding the fortress mean it is still obvious why it was such a key position
SANTO STEFANO DI SESSANIO
Long history: There has been a settlement at Santo Stefano di Sessanio since Roman times
Rich: Under the Medici family, the town became an important place for wool trading
New lives: But the decline of the wool industry led to the town’s decline, and many residents went to Canada
This medieval town rises from the ashes of a former Roman camp called Sextantio, which refers to the six-year jail period given to outlaws when they were convicted.
During the Renaissance, it became a wealthy wool-making area under the Medici rule. The precious type of wool, dubbed ‘carfagna’, was exported across Europe.
The town was at the cross-roads of so-called the seasonal migration of livestock.
But when the ‘golden’ sheep age declined in the 1800s, locals began migrating to Canada.
The latest tragic event is the quake that hit L’Aquila in 2009: the Medici Tower crumbled to pieces. So far, it has not been rebuilt.
But the village has undergone something of a renaissance, and now has a fashionable hotel which has transformed a series of old buildings – including a witches’ lair and a former brothel.
Resurgence: But, just a few hours from Rome, it has once again become a popular area – especially with holiday makers
Second chance: The town now has a population of more than 100, and a fashionable hotel
Innovative: The hotel uses a number of Santo Stefano di Sessanio’s buildings for its rooms and facilities
Historical tourism: These buildings include the old brothel – and even a former witches’ lair
FRATTURA DI SCANNO
20th century:An earthquake sent residents running for their lives from Frattura di Scanno in 1915
Position: Up until that point, it had flourished as a rural centre
Frattura di Scanno was a Roman settlement which flourished as a rural centre during the Middle Ages thanks to its strategic position, these days just a two hour drive east of Rome.
Sitting 4,256 feet above sea level atop a piece of rock that came down from the Apennine Hills, the sun beats 365 days a year creating a special micro-climate which means it is the perfect place to grow vegetables of all kinds.
Such paradise came to an end when a terrible quake hit the area in 1915, driving out families.
The final residents abandoned the town in the 1950s. But nowadays, it comes to life again during summer and on special festivities when descendants return.
And if you fancy the idea of year-round sunshine, houses are relatively cheap as well: just £11,000 (15,000 euros) will buy you a small home.
Quiet: It was abandoned in the 50s by the last residents, but now comes alive once more in the summers
Green fingered: The area is known for its micro-climate, which is favourable for growing all kinds of vegetables
SANTA BARBARA VILLAGE
Modern: This village was established by Fascist leader Benito Mussolini to mine bauxite, used to make aluminium for aircrafts
Cost effective: But it was later decided buying bauxite was far cheaper from Croatia, and the village died out
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini wanted to free Italy of its dependency on imports of raw materials, so he built this mining village for the extraction of bauxite, the Red Earth, used to make aluminium for aircrafts.
A hundred mining families were transferred here and the village soon became one of the most crucial mining centres of Italy.
Locals had all they needed – churches, playgrounds, restaurants and theatres, and everyone was happy.
Then in the 1970s Italy decided to import bauxite from Croatia – much cheaper – and the mining microcosm died-out.
Rescue: At points, entire villages have come up for sale as people try to rescue them – like this one, Pratariccia
Bargains: The village, which is now overrun with greenery, comes with 25 buildings – all for just £1.84million
Spiritual: This area was once the site of a pagan temple, and has attracted many hermits looking to connect with god over the years
The first building in Musellaro, a name which, according to locals, derives from ‘House of the Muses’, was a pagan temple built by Roman settlers.
The village, which rises in the area of so-called Great Ashrams, is surrounded by the deep gorges and cabes of the Maiella hiils, attracting hermits looking to find mystical unity with God, making the Abruzzi Italy’s Tibet.
But it is not a blessed area when it comes to natural disasters: it has been hit by more than 50 earthquakes, and the ancient bridge which connected the two sides of the valley collapsed – essentially sealing the fate of the village.
But it seems the final nail in the coffin were the frequent pirate attacks, which led the remaining village to abandon their homes.
Disastrous: But it has suffered more than 50 earthqaukes, and when the bridge running through the middle finally collapsed, it was the beginning of the end
Attacks: It was the pirate raids on the village, however, which drove the last remaining residents from their homes
Criminal past: Martese, which sits 3,270 feet above sea level, was once famed as a smuggling stronghold
Behind the times: But its lack of running water and electricity drove the residents to seek new homes
Sitting on the mountainous border between the rich Papal State and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in the 1800s Martese was famed as a smuggling stronghold of all sorts of goods and natural resources, mainly wood.
Its decline began when villagers got tired of living in a mountain area with no running water and electricity.
In 1804 residents were 62, in 1841 just 55.
Today, not a soul lives here – although the local authorities hope to be able to bring it back from the brink, and create some sort of tourist destination in the small hamlet.
Entirely abandoned: The village began its decline in the early 1800s: today, not one person lives here
Renewal?: Yet the local authorities now hope to be able to bring the village back into use some how
Stuck in the past: For the moment, the dust-covered houses are a snapshot of another time
Taking the village back: Nature is reclaiming some of the 15 homes which make up the hamlet
Legends: Established in the 12th century, it is said Buonanotte – translated as goodnight – gwas given its name thanks to a battle
Fables: Local stories say locals lost the battle and were forced to hand their wives to the victors for one night – hence the name
Resettling: But the town was abandoned following a series of landslides
Buonanotte means Goodnight – but not in the sense of being a dead town, even if it is.
When it was founded in the 12th century it was called Malanotte – bad night.
According to legend, locals lost a battle and were forced to hand their wives to the victors for one night of lovemaking.
So for the cuckolds it was Malanotte, for the lascivious winners Buonanotte.
Then, to put an end to shame, in 1969 the name was totally changed to Montebello sul Sangro.
But unfortunately most residents had already left: a series of landslides in the 1900s forced out the entire population.
Greenery: Today, the streets appear to be overrun with plants which have grown without any restrictions
Devastating: The landslides appear to have come right up to the doors and gates of the village’s homes
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The abandoned beauty of Italy's 20,000 ghost towns: Stunning pictures of ruined villages left to crumbling in eerie splendour after emigration, natural calamities and pirate raids sent locals packing have 2450 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at May 5, 2015. This is cached page on Auto News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.