Revival Underway for Sprawling Sicilian Ghost Town That’s Frozen in Time

In 1968, residents fled Poggioreale after an earthquake. Now, plans are in motion to resuscitate the historic site.

Fifty years ago, an earthquake rumbled through the picturesque Sicilian town of Poggioreale and sparked a mass exodus, even though several buildings remained in tact. There are many ghost towns throughout Sicily and Italy, but few are like Poggioreale given its size and cultural roots.

“In the school, only part destroyed, pupils’ scribblings are still on the chalkboard and a calendar on the wall marks the year: 1968. Outside, cobblestone streets lined with lavishly frescoed palazzos featuring decorated stone porches, majolica-tiled floors and Arab-style courtyards — once the homes of wealthy farmers and landowners — stand empty, save for a few stray dogs.”
But Poggioreale could soon see new life, as underpopulated and vacant Italian towns are experiencing a revival thanks to sprawling hotels and $1 homes. Developers and Sicilian officials hope to apply the same formula, and fundraising is underway to get the process moving:

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