Just imagine, you get sick of living the life you’ve chosen, so you up and move to a ghost town where there is no one in sight. Sounds crazy, right? Well, one man did just that after his father-in-law moved into his house.
Roscigno Vecchio has only one citizen. Before the man decided to live in the city, it was a ghost town, having been totally abandoned by its residents. The village is about 1,200 feet up a mountain in Cilento National Park in southern Italy. A majority of the residents who had lived there deserted the little village in 1964 due to the fact that malaria, which still existed in Italy at the time, had struck the homes in the area. Since the village was near a marshy area, malaria was not uncommon.
Now this single citizen has been living there, completely alone, for 15 years. He is 67-year-old Giuseppe Spagnuolo. He had previously lived in the next village with his wife and four children. However, after his father-in-law moved in, he just wanted some peace and quiet from the chaos.
Spagnuolo considers himself a vagabond and has quite the appearance, with his long beard. He’s never seen without his pipe, which seems to be permanently attached to his mouth.
Before moving to the village, Spagnuolo was a construction worker and carpenter. He decided to leave his family in 1997. When he first moved to the little village, there was a nun living there. However, she died in 2001, making him the lone inhabitant of the village.
His only neighbors are cats and occasionally lost sheep which come to the fountain in the piazza to drink. There is no running water in the village other than the spring fountain. There is electricity, but no bathrooms. Spagnuolo is not bothered by that one bit. In fact, he said that there are plenty of fields around which provide him with the largest space of all for using the bathroom.
The village dates back over 1,000 years when a Benedictine monk had found the area in the ruins of a hermitage; those ruins can be seen today. Shepherds had moved through the area with their flocks and began to settle in the village. By 1515, the village was formally established.
The village supported a rural life of cultivating the land until 1902 when a national law ordered the evacuation of the residents. At the time, the village had a bar, an ice cream shop, and a church where people were married and baptized. It had 1,200 villagers living there. But the village needed to be evacuated because the government had designated it as at risk of sliding down the mountainside. Locals ended up calling it “the Village that Walks”. Spagnuolo claims that the village hasn’t shifted more than a few yards since the government evacuated it.
In 1908, the authorities had built a new Roscigno about a mile up the mountain and encouraged the village people to live in the new one. The new village had new roads and services, which sounded promising for the residents. Gradually, the old village began to crumble. Some of the villagers immigrated to America and others left to find jobs in the city. About half of the village, 600 people, had stayed in the area until malaria struck in 1964. This scared people enough to move uphill for good.
Spagnuolo had grown up in the new town but left school when he was 14 in order to move to Lombardy, where he apprenticed to be a carpenter. He recalled his first day of apprenticeship. He had seen a terrible motorbike accident where the driver had been crushed up into several pieces. He described seeing the still-twitching body parts on the road. However, he still made it to work every day despite the memory of the horrible accident.
After his apprenticeship, he left for Switzerland and began an itinerant lifestyle. He moved every few months, traveling wherever construction work took him. He then spent a year in the army before returning to Switzerland, where he met his wife. She also happened to be an Italian who worked as a cleaner at the maternity hospital. They ended up having a son, but Spagnuolo continued to move back and forth between jobs since he was a seasonal worker.
His wife had begged him to take her back to her home in Roscigno. There the years passed, and they had three more children. However, on Christmas in 1990, his father-in-law came to stay and everything changed. His father-in-law was a widower but was doing well, being completely independent. But on New Year’s Day in 1991, he was run over by a car and hurt badly. After that, he couldn’t go home.
Spagnuolo explained that he had lasted more than a year under that roof, but there were too many men in the house and they didn’t get along. One day he decided to get up and walk out. He lived in an outhouse in the countryside because he needed some peace and quiet. Plus, there couldn’t be more than one man in the house, so he said. In 1997, he volunteered to be a caretaker of Roscigno Vecchia and soon made it his home.
The last neighbor he ever had was known as Teodora Lorenzo, or Dorina, the nun. When the town closed in the 1960’s, she returned there to dedicate herself to the town’s agriculture. She grew new produce in the orchards and gardens around the town. There were olives she picked as well for the farmers until she was 85 years old. She had even been given a council house in a new town so she could live near her sister, but she refused to leave the village. Even the police tried to take her out, but she told them that their efforts were pointless.
Even though Spagnuolo is alone in the town, he is never lonely because of all of the tourists coming from around the world to visit the little village. He said that many of the people call him a hermit, but he doesn’t think he is. For all of those years he had been traveling around the world, he knew that he hadn’t been missing anything. He now likes to give the tourists a small tour of the village and lets them take their photos with him.
Some shepherds and farmers still pass through the village, and some of the elderly people from the new town often come to play cards in the village square.
On the more disturbing side, Spagnuolo mentioned that there used to be a dozen cats in the area. However, there’s a man in the new town that catches them and eats them, and now the town is just down to five cats.
Spagnuolo is still married to his wife, but he no longer wears his wedding rings. He still visits her in the new village, but they are both independent.
For fun, he moves between the different houses which keeps the excitement. He said that he is now the mayor, caretaker, and president.