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Abandoned Towns and Sites in Italy
Graun was located in the Alps near the Swiss-Italian border. In 1939, a local power company commissioned a dam that would provide seasonal energy, but flood two towns in the process. World War II delayed plans, but in 1950, the dam was built and the town disappeared under water. All that remains visible is a 14th century church's bell tower. 163 crumbling buildings now lie below the surface of Lake Resia, home to fish, eel, and plant life. Each winter when the lake freezes over, you can walk across the ice to explore the bell tower. Locals say on especially cold nights you can still hear the bells in the tower ringing, even though they were removed in 1950. Although scuba diving is not officially sanctioned, one can imagine how beautiful the reward would be for anyone willing to haul scuba gear to the top of the Alps!
Balestrino, located in the northern region of Tuscany, was once owned by the Benedictine abbey of San Pietro dei Monti. It served as a residence for local olive farmers, whose fields dotted the surrounding mountainsides. By 1954, earthquakes and landslides had threatened the village's foundation and the population had dwindled to 400. The government forced the remaining residents to evacute due to safety concerns. The town can still be visited via car. Two twelfth century Gothic churches, St. George and St. Andrew, still stand. The castle at the top of the hill remains largely unaffected by earthquakes, and the bridge of Deautra offers breathtaking views. The Italian government is currently thinking about restoring the town as a tourist attraction, but until then it can be visited for a solo adventure.
Pentedattilo, in southern Italy, was originally founded in 640 BC as the Greek town of Chalcis. Over the centuries it changed hands between many conquerors, until a 1783 earthquake caused the majority of the population to flee. Today, restoration efforts from volunteers across Europe have returned the town to its former beauty, and an international film festival is hosted there.
One particularly bloody chapter from Pentedattilo's history is that of the Massacre of the Alberti Family. Two families ruled the area, the Alberti family and the Abenavoli family. A rivalry had existed for years because of common borders, but tensions had been cooling recently. The father of the Abenavoli family, Baron Bernardino, even had plans to make Antoinette, daughter of the Alberti family, his wife. However, before the wedding could take place, the son of the Viceroy of Naples met Antoinette and fell in love. He asked the Alberti family to make Antoinette his wife, and they granted him permission. Baron Bernardino was so infuriated at the betrayal that he decided to take revenge on the entire Alberti family. On the eve of Easter, April 16, 1686, Bernardino enlisted a disloyal servant of the Alberti family to help him sneak into their castle. He and a group of armed men slaughtered the majority of the residents, sparing Antoinette and taking her fiancé, the Viceroy's son, hostage. When the Viceroy heard of the massacre, he sent his armies to retaliate, and the majority of the Abenavoli family were killed, their heads hung from the battlements of the castle at Pentedattilo. It is said that to this day you can hear the screams of the victims, and the clop of horsehooves storming the castle at night.
In the historical center of Sorrento, Italy, lies a deep canyon known as the Valley of the Mills. The valley was formed by a volcanic eruption over 35,000 years ago. Rainwaters eventually carved channels through the gorge, and rivers were formed. The rushing waters provided the perfect new location for new mills, including a flour mill and sawmill. Rising waters eventually made the valley uninhabitable, and it was gradually abandoned. The humid environment allowed plant life to flourish, and the mills were quickly taken over by vegetation. Today, tourists can view the mills from above, or adventure down stone ramps for a closer view.