The Ghost Town of Frattura Vecchia near Scanno


The village of Frattura Vecchia (in the Marsican area of the Abruzzi Region) was build on a fracture caused by an earthquake in prehistoric times, that also blocked the Sagittario River and formed the Lake of Scanno (the heart-shaped lake).

And it’s an earthquake in 1915 that transformed overnight Frattura Vecchia (nomen omen: frattura means crack, crevice) in a ghost town. 120 people were killed, mainly women and childrens, since adult men had relocated in the US or were following transhumance further south, in the Apulia Region.

Frattura Vecchia is a hamlet of the town of Scanno 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, Frattura Vecchia is a gem to be enjoyed.

Frattura Vecchia
Frattura Vecchia 1915-2018 © Samuele Leuzzi

Once the village was abandoned, (during the 30s of the XX century), the survivors rebuilt a new one few miles downhill. Ignazio Silone, one of the major XX century Italian writer, describes the turmoil after the earthquake:

It roughly translate as: “Suddenly a thick fog formed. The ceilings opened letting the plaster fall. In the midst of the fog you could see children who, without saying a word, headed for the windows. All this lasted twenty seconds, thirty at most. When the cloud of chalk cleared, a new world was before us. Buildings no longer existed, vanished streets, the town razed to the ground… And ghost-like figures among the ruins…”

[Here’s the original in Italian: “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…]

Old Ruins in Frattura Vecchia
Old ruins in Frattura Vecchia © Samuele Leuzzi

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 Trekking Abruzzo Mountain Guides for their support and for sharing their knowledge with us.