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The ghost village of Cilento: Roscigno Vecchia an Unesco World Heritage


04 February 2021

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Roscigno Vecchia is a small village in Cilento.

When you get there, you immediately feel like you’ve gone back in time. Known by all as the ghost town because it is no longer habitable, with the houses that we no longer find in our villages, the stone and dirt roads are truly a small Italian pearl. The old village of Roscigno is a real Museum Country within which there is also one of the first Museums of Peasant Civilization. Once on the main square of Roscigno Vecchia we immediately experienced a fairytale scenario.

The fountain in the center of the square, the ancient houses that surround the town and the 18th century church of San Nicola di Bari. Walking through the internal streets of the town it is also possible to see the interiors of some of the most dilapidated houses. Steps that climb to entrances to the upper floors and stone streets. A show to walk the streets of the town.

But this charming village hides a little secret, in fact it is known by everyone as the ghost village since it is no longer habitable. Two ordinances of the Civil Engineers at the beginning of the last century, precisely in 1907 and 1908, sanctioned the abandonment of the village. The continuous landslides, which began in the 16th century, forced the location of the village to be moved several times. Among the Alburni mountains, a karst area, water dominates the landscape as well as the subsoil. Landslides are frequent, the roads are often uncertain. Today the town is located in a safe area, but its soul still lives in Roscigno Vecchia, 2 km away. And perhaps also its future, linked to new forms of tourism.

The village has not been affected by modernity, preserving the urban and architectural features of an 18th-19th century agro-pastoral center. For all these and other reasons, in 1998 Roscigno Vecchia was included in the list of UNESCO heritage sites, together with the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, the archaeological area of ​​Paestum and the Charterhouse of Padula. And it is no coincidence that the village has been used as a film set for video clips and films, including Sergio Staino’s “Horses are born”, Alessandro Valori’s “Radio West” and Mario Martone’s “We believed”. National Geographic cameras have also been here recently, sparking curiosity and interest around the world.

According to the owner’s industry, the city is divided into various housing groups. Stone porches, decorative frames or wrought iron balconies make the difference.

These signs change color over time, reminiscent of old shops and workshops. Here we can find many examples of typical Cilento farmhouses: a small stone house, tied with mortar and sand, and the roof is of terracotta warriors. The ground floor is used as a stable, bathroom, cellar and storage room. On the first floor there is a wooden mezzanine with a single bedroom and a kitchen with a fireplace. A well-ventilated mezzanine is used for storing or drying food.

Many roads have been lost in the bushes and are now impassable, as the risk of collapses increases each year, so they are closed with tape.

When each family went to live in the new town, three peasants continued to resist in the old houses, without electricity, running water, or sewers. Among the three people, there was the former nun, Dorina. After his death in 2000, his choice of solitude was inherited in 2001 by Giuseppe Spagnuolo, who spent his childhood here and, after years and years in search of fortune in the world, fortune found it in its origins, despite living on an average of just two euros a day.

The world revolves around them, in old Roscigno, while peasants and shepherds still go around the square today, around the town’s only fountain, with their carts and their animals, returning from the fields and pastures. Many also have used some houses as a stable or as a tool shed. In short, the village of Roscigno vecchia has never been entirely abandoned and, as long as the houses hold up, it never will be.