Campomaggiore , a fascinating history

The story of Campomaggiore has all the ingredients of a fairy tale, except for the happy ending. There is a rich and noble Count Teodoro Rendina who, after having traveled around Europe studying the utopian theories of Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, decides to create a country different from all the others: a country where poverty does not exist. He chose to implement his project in Basilicata, in a small village of farmers: Campomaggiore. It is in 1743 when he builds the patronal palace of Campomaggiore, the church and the houses of the farmers. The houses are built following innovative urban criteria that allow the inhabitants to move easily and to have enough space to live in optimal hygienic conditions. Count Rendina also establishes the rules that regulate the life of the country: every peasant, for example, must have a house with a small appreciation of land that allows him to live; every peasant must have enough wood to heat himself with the obligation to plant three fruit trees for each tree felled. The idea is good and seems to work, Campomaggiore grows and arrives to count 1524 inhabitants in 1885. However, the count did not reckon with the whims of nature, so in that same year the village was razed to the ground by a terrible landslide. Luckily the farmers managed to save themselves, but Campomaggiore was reduced to a pile of rubble. The citizens of the destroyed village try to rebuild their houses but the land on which Count Rendina built his dream is subject to continuous landslides that make every attempt vain, leaving to posterity a ghost town, concrete evidence of a shattered utopia. 2. THE ABANDONED VILLAGE Probably the story of Count Rendina is not one of those with a happy ending, but it is also thanks to that landslide that today those who visit Campomaggiore can walk in a fascinating and suggestive ghost town. The most spectacular building is the Palazzo Patronale, which overlooks what was once the Piazza dei Voti (Square of Vows), so called to remember the day when the first settlers gathered to choose to follow the count in his idea. In front of the palace stand the remains of the church dedicated to the Madonna del Carmelo. Around are still visible the walls of the ancient peasant houses. At about three kilometers from Campomaggiore Vecchio it is possible to visit the Casino della Contessa, summer residence of the Rendina family. It is in this magnificent scenery that in the weekends of August is staged "La città dell’Utopia" (The city of Utopia), a theatrical show that among lights, special effects and aerial dances tells the story of Count Teodoro Rendina and his shattered dream.

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