The ruins of Camerata, a medieval village, speckle a cliff in the Simbruini mountain range. This high-altitude village wasn’t gradually abandoned over time—its residents fled because of a catastrophic blaze.
On January 9, 1859, a fire broke out in one of the houses. Within a short time, it spread through the village, the flames consuming whatever stood in their path, forcing the villagers to escape to safety.
After finding shelter near the small rural church of Madonna delle Grazie, the Camerata refugees settled 1,312 feet (400 meters) below and, through generous funding from Pope Pius IX, they rebuilt their village, naming it Camerata Nuova (New Camerata).
Camerata Vecchia’s majestic location is not for the faint of heart. But wandering around the abandoned village is worth the trek along the steep cliff. Ruins of stone houses (some partly dug in the rock, which may provide a clue to the etymology of the site), cellars, and rainwater cisterns are distributed at the foot of the highest cliff, where a majestic stone arch would have once supported the church of San Salvatore, where broken columns and architectural elements can still be seen. The site is surrounded by deep ravines, beech forests, and karst highlands of the regional park of the Monti Simbruini, allowing for stunning views of the Italian countryside.
Know Before You Go
Camerata Vecchia can only be reached on foot via trails VL5 from Cervara di Roma or trails 664b and 653 from Camerata Nuova (a map of the Monti Simbruini Regional Park can be purchased in Subiaco). Pay attention when visiting the site to the inherent danger of any abandoned village and to the steep cliffs on either side.
The fire which destroyed the site was painted by Swiss Grand Tour artist August Weckesser who was traveling in the region at the time - it is one of the few visual representations of the old village of Camerata. Today it is on display in the Museum zu Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and it depicts the exodus of the inhabitants of Camerata as their village burns in the background. A picture of the painting can be found on the website of the Monti Simbruini Regional Park.