The 9 Creepiest Ghost Towns in Italy

If walls could scream.

If Italy’s ancient walls could talk, there would be so much the old country might whisper. With unhinged doors, collapsing roofs, and skeleton-like stone ruins, Italy’s 5,000 ghost towns are plentiful and chilling. Italians call these abandoned towns “the many sleeping beauties” that dot the country, all waiting for curious visitors to come wake them from their slumber.

The unique thing about Italian ghost towns in particular is that the settings still look sort of beautiful, castle-like, or medieval at the very least—in a sort of eerily charming way. There are temples covered in moss, collapsed medieval abbeys, crumbling Renaissance fortresses, emblazoned vaults, more cats than human residents, and heaps of dusty objects left behind by locals fleeing strange occurrences… and lots of earthquakes. Whether or not you run into a centuries-old ghost, here are some of Italy’s old stories and creepy settings.

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Craco, Basilicata

From afar, locals swear the town of Craco resembles the skull of a huge animal. That’s because the ghost town is made of abandoned cave homes dug into a reddish rocky hill, each dwelling looking like the pit of a grave. When a landslide hit Craco, sending people running for their lives, the town was left frozen in time. Some doors are still painted blue, while roofs are covered in creeping plants. It has since been the set for a few movies, including James Bond: Quantum of Solace.

Sostila, Lombardy

The abandoned buildings of Sostila are clustered around an intact church bell tower and a school where pupils’ left-behind books and pencils still lay on tables, while blackboards are scribbled in white chalk. Inside crumbled houses, the floors are cracked, while the walls are blackened from chimney soot and dotted with horse-shoes. There are forgotten rusty pots, ladles dangling from ceilings, and open cupboards full of plates. It’s uncertain why life in Sostila came to such an abrupt halt in the 1960’s, but some say at night the place is haunted by witches who parade along alleys holding their heads and combing their own hair.

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Villaggio Asproni, Sardinia

The story of Villaggio Asproni reads like one of the many abandoned gold rush towns in the US. Once a prosperous mining center built at the end of the 1800’s in Sardinia, the workers and their families had homes, small shops, and a school with a playground for the kids. But eventually the quarry ran out until there was no more work to be had and everyone left—but not before tragedy struck the area. Asproni is said to be haunted by the ghost of a man who drowned in the blood of miners during a riot, when the exploited workers were fighting for their rights.


Buonanotte, Abruzzo

Perched on a rocky hilltop overlooking a chasm in Abruzzo, just a few wobbly dwellings and the ruins of a castle still stand in the town once known as Buonanotte. This was a bit of a strange name, as it means “goodnight” in Italian. And the reason behind that is a dark one. According to legend, a battle took place here in the middle ages, resulting in a terrible night of pillage and plundering. Thereafter, the losers called the town Malanotte, meaning “bad night,” while the winners named it the opposite. It wasn’t until 1969 that the town’s name was changed to Montebello sul Sangro. As soon as that was settled, a series of landslides struck, forcing out the entire population.

Reneuzzi, Liguria

Liguria may be famous for its VIP Cinque Terre, but the ghost town of Reneuzzi is a creepy place worth visiting around Halloween. Roofless peasant dwellings once home to chestnut producers dot an isolated thick forest ideal for hikers. But digging into the past here is chilling. In the early 1960’s a man killed his girlfriend and then committed suicide. It’s said his ghost still wanders through the surrounding woods.

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Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo

High on the snowy peaks of the Apennine mountains, in one of the most stranded and isolated spots in the central Abruzzo regions, sits a majestic deserted fortress. Built by the powerful Florentine Medici family, who controlled all central Italy, this was once the hub of a defensive network of look-out towers against enemy attacks. The greatness ended when the fortress was rocked by a violent earthquake in 1703. All the residents moved downhill. Since then, sheep and shepherd dogs are the sole inhabitants.

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Bergiola, Tuscany

A steep stone path leads to the ancient entrance of Bergiola in Tuscany. The heap of ruins here are the remains of defensive stone walls, arches, and rural houses, now covered in wild vegetation. According to legends, a giant snake called Devasto (meaning devastation) lives in the thick woods creeping across the village. It can trigger calamities with a diabolical hiss, which people say you can sometimes hear at midnight.

Cancelli, Umbria

A single country road leads to the silent town of Cancelli in Umbria. Save for some cats and a few dwellings of shepherd families, the village was abandoned due to an earthquake. But it was also once a site of bloodshed. Legend has it that, at night, visitors can hear the echoes of ancient battles fought by Roman legions against rebel tribes. Today you can find a crumbling castle, ancient Roman stone arches, and a pagan temple turned into an underground crypt.

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Apice Vecchia, Campania

The pastel-colored cottages of Apice Vecchia seem to be in perfect condition, with their iron-wrought balconies lining the winding, cobbled alleyways. It’s almost idyllic—except for the fact that it’s completely empty. All the furniture and kitchenware left behind make the town feel like it’s suspended in time. After being struck by an earthquake in 1962, the 6,000 residences fled, though amazingly many buildings survived the calamity. Locals dub it “the Pompeii of the 20th century.”

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Silvia Marchetti is a contributor for Thrillist.