Perched high upon a rocky cliff, the empty town of Pentedattilo takes its name from the direct translation of “five fingers” for its resemblance to a hand seemingly reaching up to the sky above.
In the southern tip of Calabria, Italy, Pentedattilo sits on the edge of the Aspromonte Mountains, where earthquakes and soil displacement have made the land rugged and mostly uninhabited. The ancient Greek settlement now known as the ghost town of Pentedattilo withstood a changing landscape from the 7th-century B.C. to the 1960s, when the remaining edifices in the hillside were finally abandoned.
Pentedattilo’s strategic position in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean made it an economic and military stronghold during the Greek-Roman period. It became a Norman territory by the 12th century and changed hands for years until persistent environmental threats slowly led to its depopulation and destroyed many of its structures over time. The town remained completely uninhabited from the 1960s to the 1980s, when it was rediscovered and partially restored by volunteers from all over Europe.
Today, the ruins of Pentedattilo slowly crumble away beneath the dusty underbrush of the arid southern terrain. All that remains of life in Pentedattilo are a few brave souls who set up shop for the small influx of tourists who choose to visit each year and their many wild cats who wander the barren streets and craggy foundations with a familiar grace. The town’s residents live in solitude and greet new arrivals with enthusiastic wisps of bargaining for small souvenirs and a watchful eye as new faces navigate their lonely neighborhood.
Well aware of the eerie allure of their empty town, Pentedattilo’s inhabitants are quick to share legends and ghost stories about the mountain’s ill-fated past. They tell of an Easter massacre driven by a property dispute and romantic conflict between two noble families of the town in the late 1600s, a legendary incident now known as the Strage degli Alberti or the Slaughter of the Albertis.
The quiet streets of Pentedattilo harbor secrets that will never be uncovered from the town’s civilizations long past. Visitors can peek in their windows, wander through their overgrown backyards, sit in the empty pews of their small church, and traverse their sacred alleyways. The empty ghost town, once a bustling hamlet, is now a maze of ruins and untold stories where sleepy cats now overtake the resident population.
After two months spent exploring Italy’s major cities, turquoise shores, and popular tourist destinations, I found that unrefined, untouched regions like Pentedattilo were actually the hardest to leave. Most people who have visited Italy know nothing of the ghost village called Pentedattilo. They know Rome, Milan, Florence, and Naples.
By all means, join the masses to see Italy’s storied cities and all of their splendid history, but don’t forget to take the overgrown and seldom traversed paths that stretch far beyond the main roads. After all, the towns with no one left to share their stories depend on those who still visit to create new ones. Brave the barren countrysides, the rocky mountains, and the streets where only few have walked. You never know what treasures you might find.