Molise is a small nook of a region in Italy. Yet, it is pretty controversial in its own right. Some Italians consider it a region that “doesn’t exist,” ironically dubbing it “Molisn’t” to poke fun at the rant. No one knows how it started, but the area is often regarded as one of the last great unknowns of Italy. It is a region just now beginning to spark the interest of tourists and visitors, so it still hides a lot of interesting local lore, mysteries, and history. These include Rocchetta Alta in Isernia.
At first, this ghost town might seem like one of the many abandoned villages scattered throughout Italy, but its links to the second world war make it a unique and exciting destination.
Not much is known of the ancestral history of Rocchetta Alta. This relatively small town is still considered a fraction of the Rocchetta a Volturno “Comune,” and it has been abandoned since the end of the 20th century. What’s left of the old buildings offers a spectacular view. The town appears perched up on a hill, with what remains of the central tower located at the highest point. Most of the buildings are overrun with vegetation as nature progressively advances, claiming back the ruins of the ghost town.
The town sports medieval-era buildings and the sign of a series of landslides that destroyed most of the town. As the area became a prominent farming region in previous centuries, deforestation became a huge problem. The lack of trees led to a dangerous mix of environmental conditions that were “perfect” for landslides, putting the town and neighboring villages in danger.
One of the oddest and perhaps most unusual accounts of Rocchetta Alta in Isernia is a “mock battle” that was filmed during the second world war. During the 1940s, Italy was a significant war theater in Europe. German troops occupied the country, and as the Americans advanced, the Italian liberation front supported the allies in getting the country back. A massive battle nearby led to a huge victory for the allied troops. However, it wasn’t possible to film any reel during combat due to logistics. For this reason, the Italian Liberation army was looking for new ways to create propaganda content for the Allies since the significant victory would boost morale and further the war effort. Eventually, the liberation corps noticed the nearby Rocchetta Alta and quickly realized that the town was abandoned entirely. For this reason, they decided to stage a mock battle so that they could film it and create propaganda reels.
During this cinematic conflict, the troops bombed many of the remaining buildings. Most of the town was utterly obliterated for the benefit of the cameras!
This unique piece of WWII lore made the town quite notorious among visitors and tourists. Many of them love to explore the ruins and what’s left of the old houses. There is also what remains of a castle and the local church, Santa Maria Assunta, in Rocchetta Alta.
Many locals seized the momentum and tried to capitalize on the buzz surrounding WWII-related interest. For instance, the nearby municipality of Roccetta, a Volturno, established the International Museum of World Wars (Museo Internazionale delle Guerre Mondiale). It stands out as one of the most comprehensive and fascinating museums with a particular focus on the second world war. The area attracts many history buffs and lovers of abandoned places and ghost towns with a unique history.
Also, check out this Youtube video Sven van der Wal and I produced with our DJI Air 2S drone for our project Boys with Drones: