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Photographing Apice, a Ghost Town in Italy

The Benevento province of the Campania region in the South of Italy is sadly home to a multitude of abandoned structures, villages, and towns. The area is quite known for being vulnerable to earthquakes, which didn’t make life easy for these communities over the past few centuries. The looming seismic threats and the trends of mass migration to nearby cities contributed to leaving many of these places behind. One of the most notable ghost towns in the province happens to be Apice.

Often dubbed as the “Pompei” of the 1900s, Apice still features remnants of buildings dating back to the first century DC. The town prospered until the 1962 earthquake when it was abandoned almost overnight. Today, it is quite difficult to visit the area due to ongoing restrictions. This fascinating site is steeped in history, and its background dates back to Roman times. Even the town’s name can be traced back to a Roman officer, Marco Apicio, who gifted some of the nearby lands to former legionnaires who served the state’s military efforts. To this day, Apice is home to some faint traces of the famous Via Appia, one of the most famous roads leading to Rome. The Appia is widely considered the ancestor of modern highways, and it is amazing to see that parts of it still survive. In addition to the traces of the ancient Romans, Apice features various churches and a truly stunning historical center. This prominent part of the town is not in terribly dire shape, considering the earthquake and the decades of neglect.

As mentioned earlier, the region was one of the many rural areas of Italy undergoing a process of population shift, with many of the younger generations at the time aiming to start a new life in the city. By the early 60s, the community dwindled to a little more than 6.500 inhabitants. However, the 1962 earthquake was the last straw: 17 people died, and many homes and facilities collapsed. An evacuation plan was executed rapidly, and most people never looked back. Interestingly enough, a few people refused to leave. The local barber, for instance, kept his old shop open until his death in 2013, even if a ghost town surrounded him! Although not many had the steadfast courage to stand their ground, many locals shared the barber’s attachment to Apice. The surviving former citizens still regret having to leave a community they loved behind.

In the historical center, most homes have been overrun by vegetation. However, it is still possible to discern the aesthetics of the building and the layout of the historic cobblestone streets. Most buildings are fairly small, not much higher than 2 or 3 stories. Stone seems to be a prominent material: not a usual sight in the hills and small towns surrounding Benevento! What makes Apice’s historical center so interesting to many is that it stands out as a snapshot of “pre-boom” Italy. This means that it captures the mood of what a local village would have looked like before the advent of supermarkets, mass-produced goods, and other modern amenities. It is a time capsule that bears the marks of many past eras.

The visitors who dare to venture among the old buildings will be treated to a unique experience, almost like venturing into a quirky open-air museum dedicated to a special moment in time. The government tried to recover the town several times throughout the past few decades, albeit with poor results. Today, the future of Apice remains uncertain.

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