Photography / Travel Bites

The Ghost Town of Frattura Vecchia near Scanno


The village of Scanno in Abruzzo is deservedly known for its enchanted atmosphere in its narrow alleys and exposed-brickwork houses, for its nearby heart-shaped lake and for being photographed by “The Eye of the Century” Henry Cartier Bresson (and many others). However, a stone’s throw away from the village, another gem can be enjoyed.

The village of Frattura  was build on the divide (hence the name, since “frattura” here means rift, divide) that in prehistoric times was generated by an earthquake that blocked the Sagittario river and formed the lake of Scanno. Frattura Vecchia is a ghost town that the devastating earthquake in 1915 razed to the ground. 120 people were killed, mainly children and women, since adult men had relocated in the US or were following transhumance in Apulia.

Frattura Vecchia

Frattura Vecchia 1915-2018 © Samuele Leuzzi

The village was then abandoned and rebuilt a few miles downhill during the 30s of the XX century. Ignazio Silone, one of the major XX century Italian writer, describes the turmoil after the earthquake:

“S’è fatto d’improvviso una fitta nebbia. I soffitti si aprivano lasciando cadere il gesso. In mezzo alla nebbia si vedeva ragazzi che, senza dire una parola, si dirigevano verso le finestre. Tutto questo è durato venti secondi, al massimo trenta. Quando la nebbia di gesso si è dissipata, c’era davanti a noi un mondo nuovo. Palazzi che non esistevano più, strade scomparse, la città appiattita… E figure simili a spettri fra le rovine… Un vecchio avaro, l’usuraio del villaggio, era seduto su una pietra, avvolto in un lenzuolo come in un sudario. Il terremoto l’aveva sorpreso a letto, come tanti altri. Batteva i denti per il freddo. Chiedeva da mangiare. Nessuno lo aiutava.

Old Ruins in Frattura Vecchia

Old ruins in Frattura Vecchia © Samuele Leuzzi

“A thick fog suddenly came down. Ceilings opened and gypsum dropped from above. Among the mist, teenagers, speechless, headed towards the windows. All this lasted for twenty seconds, thirty at most. When the gypsum fog thinned out, a new world was before us. Buildings vanished, streets disappeared, the town was flattened…  ghost-like shapes walked among the ruins … an old cheapskate, the village loan shark, was wrapped into a bedsheet as if in a shroud. The earthquake caught him in his bed, just like many others. Cold made his teeth rattle. He asked for food. No one helped him.”

The hopeless atmosphere Silone described a century ago is echoed today when walking through the streets of

Frattura Vecchia.

The only dweller is silence. Roofless houses, abandoned stables and a half-fallen tower are the only witnesses of a suddenly interrupted life. Thorns, weeds and vegetation cover scattered stones and  broken walls. A century after the earthquake, the atmosphere you can breathe is melancholic, evocative but somehow appealing.

But no panic! If you fear that you’ll be overcome by melancholy, just take a look at the placid underlying heart-shaped lake and you’ll be smiling again.

The Lake of Scanno – Tripadvisor

Appetibilis thanks TrekkingAbruzzo Mountain Guides for their support and for sharing their knowledge with us.