In the days of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the Calabrian city of Pentedattilo was an important commercial centre. Today it is a ghost town. And it is not the only one…
Founded in 640BC, when this part of Italy was firmly under Greek rule, Pentedattilo (its name means “five fingers”, a reference to the topography of the mountain upon which it was built) was once a thriving city. It did go into serious decline in the Byzantine era (after the Romans), and was then sacked by the Saracens, conquered by the Normans, and generally invaded by pretty much anyone who happened to be passing… But it was always still there.
Then, in 1783, it was hit by an earthquake and abandoned. In this respect Pentedattilo is, of course, far from unique. Craco in neighbouring Basilicata, was more or less given up on around the turn of the 10th century after a series of earthquakes, and abandoned completely in 1963.
Balestrino and Bussana Vecchia, in Liguria, at the other end of the country, were both abandoned in the 19th century, again after a series of earthquakes.
And this is not something that only used to happen in the long-forgotten past: Apice, 1962; Romagnano al Monte, 1980… Abandoned after inhabitants, was hit in 2009. And just this year, hundreds were killed by an earthquake in Umbria. Those that survived there, we remember, are still slowly rebuilding their villages and their lives.