Craco is a ghost town in the province of Matera, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The old town was abandoned due to natural disasters.
The town was built on a very steep summit for defensive reasons, giving it a stark and striking appearance and distinguishing it from the surrounding land.
Throughout the area are many vegetation-less mounds called calanchi (badlands), formed by intensive erosion.
Around 540 BC, the area was inhabited by Greeks. Tombs have been found, even dating from the 8th century BC. The town’s name Craco can be dated to 1060 AD. Craco was an important military center and the Castle Tower became a prison. In 1276, a university was established in town. The population increased from 450 in 1277, to 2,590 in 1561. During the year 1656 the number of families was reduced because of the plague.
In the 1800s, severe earthquakes and landslides struck Craco. From 1892 to 1922, over 1,300 Crachesi migrated to North America, mainly due to poor agricultural conditions.
At the same time the greatest difficulty the town faced became environmental and geological. Much of the city had been built on sand over soft clay. It was only a matter of time before the land gave away under the weight. In 1963 Craco began to be evacuated due to another landslide and the inhabitants moved to the valley. The landslide seems to have been provoked by
leaking sewer and water systems.
In 1972 a flood worsened the situation further, preventing a possible repopulation of the historic center. After the earthquake in 1980, the ancient site of Craco was completely abandoned.
Because of its unique and particular landscape, Craco has been the setting of many movies. Films shot inside or near the ghost town include "The Passion of The Christ" by Mel Gibson in 2004 and the 007-movie "Quantum of Solace"in 2008. In 2015 the ghost town has been the setting for a Japanese Pepsi commercial.