Aside from the weather, there have been many other factors causing towns to be abandoned throughout Italian history: harsh living conditions, plague, lack of running water and electricity, failure of crops, pirate raids, bombings and even the massive emigration to the Americas for people striving for a better life for their families. In fact, some put the number of Ghost Towns in Italy at nearly 20,000! Many of these are wonderful snapshots in time ripe for the Slow Travel Voyager to discover.
The Cilento has been affected by some of these factors causing communities to abandon their homes--while creating some interesting Borghi Fantasma, Ghost Towns...
In the heart of the Cilento, 1600 feet up in the mountains, and about 20 miles from the port town of Agropoli is the ghost town of Roscigno Vecchia. Abandoned in the early 20th century after the region was plagued by floods and landslides, most of the population relocated to a new town built on higher ground. There is one solitary resident living there full time--Giuseppe Spagnuolo, a story-teller, historian and caretaker of the the hamlet's small museum, but many families still use their family homes for storage and tend their olive and almond trees. Although many of the structures are in ruins, there are still many standing--fine examples of architecture dating mack 1000 years. It's not easy to get to, but if you're into winding mountain roads, this shouldn't be a problem. Click for MAP.
The site is situate on top of a 400 foot tall cliff with sheer rock walls over 200 feet tall. There are many hiking trails in the area and the gorge below --the Sorgenti del Sammaro (Sammaro Springs Gorge)--that will take you to amazing rock formations shaped by the torrents flowing through the gorge. The nearby modern village of Sacco is also very picturesque and worth a visit with its narrow streets, flowered balconies and the cliffs towering above. Don't forget to visit their museum of wood artisan crafts. Click to see Map.
Explored in 1956 by some the Grotte di Polla contains concretions of stalactites and stalagmites, but still retains a deep layer of mud on the bottom that makes things difficult for speleological explorers to explore further.
How to get there: cross the village of Polla, and follow the signs for the Convent of Sant'Antonio. One quarter of the way up Via del Convent di Sant'Antonio on a sharp curve you will find the entrance to the Grotte up a short path hidden by some vegetation. At this writing, it is not clear about how to gain access to the Grotte di Polla. It's best to contact the Commune of Polla.
La grotta di San Michele Arcangelo in the town of Sant'Angelo a Fasanella is extremely old, once inhabited by prehistoric man in the Paleolithic age. It was "rediscovered" about 1000 years ago, but when it was dedicated to its saint is not clear. There are two theories: that the dedication to St. Michael came during the Norman occupation of southern Italy, or that Benedictine monks discovered the cave as early as 800 A.D., then later under the Normans, built a monastery or Abbey dedicated to the saint (only ruins of the Abbey remain today). Historical records prove that the Grotta di San Michele Arcangelo was well known in the 13th century during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who invaded and sacked the town of Fasanella in 1246. There are many underground or grottoes in Italy from the early Christian, and this is one of the best to visit.
Also up in these hills are found an observatory, several mountain chapels and sanctuaries, and stacked rock spires. It's definitely a mystical place to visit. The road to the cave (grotto) is immediately off of the main square in the town at the end of Via Primavera. The road leading up to Antecce is on the other end of town.
The caves are just above the banks of the Fiume Calore a river used for rafting, kayaking as well as picnicking and swimming in areas with wide sandy shoals. Not far from the caves is also the Ponte Pestano built in 71 AD, better known as Spartacus Bridge. As the legend says, the bridge was crossed by the gladiator Spartacus as he led his slaves in a revolt against Rome. Click to see map.
I hope this three part series has helped.