The medieval village of Craco is typical of the hill towns of the region with mildly undulating shapes and the lands surrounding it sown with wheat.
Around 540 AD the area was called “Montedoro”, and inhabited by Greeks who moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto. Tombs have been found dating from the 8th century suggesting the original settlement dates back to then. Today, earthquakes, landslides, and a lack of fertile farming land have contributed to the abandonment of Craco.
The inhabitants of the town multiplied from 450 in 1277 to 2,590 in 1561, and averaged around 1,500 in succeeding centuries. A plague struck in 1656, killing hundreds and reducing the population significantly. By 1799 there was enough impetus to change the feudal system and an independent Municipality was established. In 1815 it was decided the town was large enough to divide into two separate districts.
From 1892 – 1922, over 1,300 Crachesi left to settle in North America because poor agricultural conditions created desperate times, as the land was not producing enough for the people. During the mid-twentieth century, recurring earthquakes began to take a toll on the town. Between 1959 and 1972, portions of the village were severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable by a series of landslides. The geological threat to the town was known to scientists since 1910, due to Craco’s location on a hill of Pliocene sands overhanging the clays with ravines causing progressive incisions.
Now, Craco is uninhabited. In 1963, the last 1,800 inhabitants were transferred to a valley in a locality called Craco Peschiera. That population is now down to about 970 inhabitants. As beautiful as Craco is, the land and location have proven unsuitable for sustaining habitation.