I'd heard the tales told by the old folks in towns around Southern Italy. Tales of an old man, some said he looked like Santa, others like the wizard Gandalf.
They spoke of a village of ghosts, of this old man who lived alone - only his memories and those ghosts to keep him company.
The stories were sad, inspiring in a way too. I had to see Roscigno Vecchia, for myself.
Scared of ghosts, I asked a friend of mine, Nigel to take me.
Next day we set off on a bright summer's morning from the seaside town of Agropoli. Only a few fluffy little clouds floating by far away. Behind us the sea sparkled blue. The sun shone brightly.
Just the sort of day to meet ghosts.
Inland we headed, higher and higher. The day turned darker, horribly gloomy, the road was narrow, sheets of rain beat at the car.
Maybe not the right day to meet ghosts after all. It kept getting worse. Then we arrived.
First impressions: a big open square, a piazza of sorts, not a soul around, the screech of a cat fighting... or something else perhaps?
Abandoned houses and then... Guiseppe Spagnuolo.
Leaning from an upstairs window. Smoke rising from his pipe, as old as the hills, merging with the mist, making the mist?
I looked away for a moment... and he was gone.
Was he ever there at all?
Two minutes later he popped out of a doorway across the piazza and beckoned me in. I followed, lemming like, enchanted. The stories were true. The old man, alone with the ghosts of Roscigno Vecchia, existed.
Inside I found an old museum that Giuseppe curates, a museum that tells the story of the people here. People forced to leave their homes over a century ago because of the fear of landslides.
Nowadays the whole town is a museum - of life in simpler times, of a community, of families.
Stories untold, forgotten. Except they aren't all gone. Guiseppe is keeping them alive.
While he lives the town has life, warmth, humanity. Its ghosts, the sadness that you feel creeping through the cracks, kept at bay.
Meet Giuseppe of course, hear his stories of how he left the village as a child, traveled far and wide, served in the army and lived in many places.
In the end, to find that which his soul craved, he returned to his roots.
To keep memories and hope alive here.
Now he sits, smokes his homemade artichoke tobacco, ruminates on life and shares his stories with all those who stumble upon his lonely little world.
Visit the excellent little museum and spend a long time wandering the lanes of the village.
Sit alone, in the silence of the square, in front of the church. The only sound the birds and the soft splashing of water running into the fountain.
You can almost hear the laughter of the children of long ago in the wind.
Nowadays the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the last towns in Europe where you can see what life was like before cars and modern "essentials" changed so much.
No paved roads, no sidewalks, no street signs, no lights, no electricity.
You'll need a car to get here. The map below shows you where the town is located.
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