They survived malaria outbreaks, volcanic eruptions, centuries of war, and the Bubonic Plague, but in the end it was a landslide that brought them down.
People had lived in Craco, a hilltop village on the southern end of Italy in Basilicata, near the heel of the "boot," since the 10th century B.C. -- at one point growing to a population of as many as 2,000.
At times, Craco was a monastic and educational center as well as a feudal town where a castle, university, church and plazas still remain -- one Norman tower dates back to about 1040. But the people are long gone, and today Craco is eerily abandoned and slowly crumbling.
In the 1960s, a series of events triggered by landslides, floods, earthquakes and poor infrastructure gradually forced everyone to migrate out to a neighboring town.
Italians now return to Craco for many summer religious festivals, and it's an attractive spot for tourists and movie location scouts, as the ruins frequently stand in as a biblical village. The 1985 film "King David," starring Richard Gere, was filmed there, as was a scene in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
Guided tours will take you through Craco's historic center, and "safe areas" are set up around certain parts of the town for those who want a free glimpse.
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