Roghudi: Tour an abandoned village in the hills of southern Italy

Nationalgeographic.com IN A WAY, they are Greek ruins. But you won't find a tem­ple to Apol­lo, or urns pain­ted with stri­ding athle­tes in the aban­do­ned hill­si­de vil­la­ge of Roghu­di Vec­chio. The arti­fac­ts here inclu­de a piz­za oven and Coke bot­tles. None­the­less, this town in Italy’s Aspro­mon­te moun­tains was foun­ded in the ele­venth cen­tu­ry. And the roo­ts of its for­mer resi­den­ts may extend to ancient times. This region, Cala­bria, is the toe at the tip of Italy's boot. And when the Greeks star­ted colo­ni­zing the area in the eighth cen­tu­ry BC, Cala­bria was a toe­hold. They knew Cala­bria by a dif­fe­rent name: Ita­loi, a name that in time exten­ded to all of Ita­ly. (Visit a remo­te spa town on a vol­ca­nic Ita­lian island.)

Over the cen­tu­ries, sou­thern Ita­ly may again have recei­ved waves of Hel­le­nic immi­gran­ts, displa­ced from the eastern Medi­ter­ra­nean. New­co­mers either revi­ved a flag­ging Greek-spea­king mino­ri­ty, or rein­tro­du­ced a lan­gua­ge that had died out local­ly. (Explo­re a richly deco­ra­ted vil­la from the late Roman Empi­re.)

Incre­di­bly, even today the­re are a few thou­sand Greek spea­kers in Cala­bria. One vil­la­ge whe­re you might hear the local dia­lect of Gre­ko, or Ita­lian Greek, is Roghu­di Nuovo—New Roghudi—part of a clu­ster of Jonian sea­coa­st towns on the outskirts of the city of Reg­gio. Today’s Roghu­di was foun­ded by peo­ple from Old Roghudi—Roghudi Vec­chio. The con­tra­st bet­ween the two is clear: one is inha­bi­ted; the other is a gho­st town. Only 11 miles sepa­ra­te the vil­la­ges, but it's qui­te an adven­tu­re, on rou­gh roads that twi­st throu­gh lone­ly, rug­ged ter­rain in Aspro­mon­te Natio­nal Park. (Plan a road trip along Italy’s sce­nic Amal­fi Coa­st.) Thought to be a base of ope­ra­tions for Calabria's power­ful cri­mi­nal orga­ni­za­tion, the ndran­ghe­ta (from the Greek andra­ga­thía, mea­ning "man­li­ness"), that asso­cia­tion may have limi­ted deve­lo­p­ment of the­se moun­tains as a tou­ri­st desti­na­tion.

Like much of the Mez­zo­gior­nio, a term for sou­thern Ita­ly, Cala­bria has trai­led behind the country's north eco­no­mi­cal­ly, lea­ding to per­si­stent emi­gra­tion. Roghu­di Vecchio’s col­lap­se is an extre­me case, but other com­mu­ni­ties have seen popu­la­tions fall as well. Over-har­ve­sting of tim­ber on some of the Aspromonte's slo­pes has led to ero­sion, made wor­se by Calabria’s annual cli­ma­tic cycle. Punc­tua­ting the very dry sum­mers are occa­sio­nal hard win­ter rain­storms, which can cau­se fier­ce floo­ding. In the ear­ly 1970s, a deva­sta­ting flood left Roghu­di Vec­chio uni­n­ha­bi­ta­ble. Almo­st all the resi­den­ts left the vil­la­ge, lea­ving behind a shell of a com­mu­ni­ty that had endu­red a thou­sand years.

Cala­bria, whe­re the Euro­pean main­land extends far into the Medi­ter­ra­nean, remains a major point of entry for migran­ts, and recei­ving tou­rists has beco­me one of its key indu­stries.

May 9, 2018—The aban­do­ned hill­si­de vil­la­ge of Roghu­di Vec­chio, in Italy’s Aspro­mon­te moun­tains was foun­ded in the ele­venth cen­tu­ry. And the roo­ts of its for­mer resi­den­ts may extend to ancient times. This region, Cala­bria, is the toe at the tip of Italy's boot. And when the Greeks star­ted colo­ni­zing the area in the eighth cen­tu­ry BC, Cala­bria was a toe­hold. Over the cen­tu­ries, sou­thern Ita­ly again recei­ved Hel­le­nic immi­gran­ts, displa­ced from the eastern Medi­ter­ra­nean. New­co­mers either revi­ved a flag­ging Greek-spea­king mino­ri­ty, or rein­tro­du­ced a lan­gua­ge that had died out local­ly. Incre­di­bly, even today the­re are a few thou­sand Greek spea­kers in Cala­bria. One vil­la­ge whe­re you might hear the local dia­lect of Gre­ko, or Ita­lian Greek, is Roghu­di Nuovo—New Roghudi—part of a clu­ster of Ionian sea­coa­st towns on the outskirts of the city of Reg­gio. Today’s Roghu­di was foun­ded by peo­ple from Old Roghudi—Roghudi Vec­chio, when floods for­ced vir­tual­ly eve­ryo­ne out.

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