Fabbriche di Careggine

Nothing merits the title of a “ghost town” like Fabbriche di Careggine. Its recent history is well-known. In 1947, it was decided that one of the banks of the river Edron, in the Garfagnana, would be pulled down near the village of Vagli. The aim was to exploit the hydroelectric potential of the area. The deed was done, and the 146 inhabitants of Fabbriche di Careggine had to flee: they moved to Vagli di Sotto, which they shaped to look like the town they had left.

Put like that, it doesn’t sound especially impressive. After all, other towns have finished underwater in recent years. Some have left a Romantic image behind: the most famous, now a staple of postcards, is the Curon belltower in Resia, which emerges from the millpond waters of its lake. What’s different about Fabbriche – apart from the fact that it was literally obliterated – is that every ten years or so the reservoir is drained for maintenance, and the rooftops gradually peek above the surface, followed by the rest of the stone houses, the streets, the church of San Teodoro and its collapsed belltower.

In fact, Fabbriche’s entire history is pretty torturous, though not without a certain nobility. A settlement stood since around the year 1000, and it went on to become an important ironworking centre. In later centuries, it was lucky enough to sit on the Via Vandelli, a vital communication route that connected the Garfagnana with Modena, a small but already influential independent state. When the Via Vandelli fell into decline, Fabbriche declined with it, and its people weathered some grim centuries until the marble quarries around Vagli provided an alternative to their sheep farming and general poverty.

The reservoir was last drained in 1994. I had the good fortune – and the hard-headed determination – to see it happen. Of course, you can’t go down immediately, because the bottom of the lake is muddy and has to dry out, leaving the classic craquelure pattern. It’s a surreal atmosphere. The village is completely solid, yet ephemeral, soon to be hidden again for years and years. Stone and imagination compete for mastery of your sensations.

It seems that in 2022 – some say 2023 - Fabbriche will return to the light once more. No devoted reader of Vivere di Gusto can possibly miss out on a visit to this incredible place, with its history, legends and lunar landscapes. You’ll feel emotions such as you have never felt before.

Image: Wikipedia