The Ghost Town Near Rome

We came across mention of this ghost town on Atlas Obscura (a brilliant website with a collection of more unusual places to visit on your trips) while we were in Rome and our lovely friend Sam had come to visit us. It was the 28th of August '18 and just a couple of days after the awful break-in of our van Victor (you can check out the post all about that here). We couldn't go too far away from Rome because Sam was flying back home from an airport there, but we just didn't really feel safe in Rome. Instead, we found ourselves exploring the periphery of the great city and though we only had two days on the outskirts, I can't recommend it enough. There are plenty of hidden gems scattered around the countryside, including this hauntingly beautiful place - Galeria Antica.

Clutching my phone, with the Atlas Obscura page open for a guide, I attempted to find this place and guide the three of us there. The area felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, and we had to park the van a fair distance away from Galeria itself, then walk down a busy country road with no paths... Italian drivers are blimin' crazy and it did feel like we took our lives in our hands but we eventually made it to the farm track indicated on the website. Even walking down that dirt track felt like forever, but the further we walked, the more ethereal it felt. We could see signs of life on the farm that the track ran next to, including several very diligent guard dogs who were tirelessly running around and checking that we didn't trespass on their land, but still it felt like we were leaving the real world behind us. We then passed into a little woodland, with wildflowers growing around the track whimsically, and just a little further on, we reached the archway into the old town.

It was so eerie when we actually stepped through that archway. We'd been to an Italian ghost town before (they seem to have a fair few) but that had been abandoned in the 60s and was quite close to a main road... Galeria Antica, however, was completely abandoned in 1809 and I found it mind-boggling to think of the people who once lived there. It didn't feel like going to ancient ruins where it's hard to imagine people actually living, but the town was home to people whose timelines have still never crossed over with mine. I was looking at real people's houses, which had since crumbled and become much greener, and it felt quite surreal.

I'd also learnt from Atlas Obscura the horrifying reason why Galeria Antica was abandoned in the first place: the town was ravaged by plague, later realised to be a form of malaria. The last residents departed in such haste that some of their belongings were left in the town... As well as bodies of those who didn't survive the disease and were not buried. I think this knowledge also gave the place a dark and foreboding atmosphere.

Not that long after we first entered the town, and bearing in mind that we were the only people there, we accidentally lost each other and I felt terrified that something was going to happen to Ross and Sam. Now, I'm 95% sure that this is only because I have a very over-active imagination and obviously nothing happened, but I was very very relieved when I found them again (it was probably a total of five or ten minutes that we were apart, but felt like longer!). I've watched enough Scooby Doo to know that you never split up!

Once together again, I quickly realised that Galeria Antica was absolutely stunning. Nature showed her power here, with trees growing up through walls and ivy carpeting everything with a slow precision. After I got over my initial fear, I began appreciating this fabulous experience. We were alone and exploring this magical place, not yet ruined by tourism and a wonderful monument to the passage of time and fragility of humans. A reminder, as with the other ghost town we visited, that it's never too late for nature to reclaim her land. It's an experience that I will never forget.

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