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Is a Former Ghost Town Now the Best Place to Live in America?

Is a Former Ghost Town Now the Best Place to Live in America?

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We went to Park City, Utah, to get the lowdown on its high life

Park City, Utah was recently named the best place to live in America by Outside Magazine.

Although Park City, Utah, was just voted the “best place to live’ in America by Outside magazine, it’s not a bad place to visit, either.

Is a Former Ghost Town Now the Best Place to Live in America? (Slideshow)

Most visitors come in the winter—a time time when Park City has snow coming out the Wasatch—to ski at one of the area’s three major resorts or to get their cinema fix at Robert Redford’s annual Sundance Film Festival. It’s also a great place to hang out in the summer and fall, as I found out on a visit last week.

But if you had come here 30 years ago, you would have found a ghost town that time had passed by. In the late 1800s, Park City, which is now only a 40-minute drive into the mountains from Salt Lake International Airport, was crawling with miners digging for silver and lead.

After being dormant for most of the 20th Century, Park City started coming alive in the 1980s and ‘90s, and its renaissance was capped by the 2002 Winter Olympics, whose major outdoor events were held here.

Read on for my experiences at this former ghost town turned into a bustling high-end resort.

Making Places: From Ghost Town to Industry City

An industrial complex from the late 19th century, Industry City began as a monumental intermodal manufacturing, warehousing and distribution center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Its 35 acres held consistent traffic of 25,000 daily workers and sailors throughout the 20th century, which turned Brooklyn into a major international seaport. It became relevant even before the Statue of Liberty popped up right in front of it, granting it a generous view.

However, around the 1960’s, the decline of urban manufacturing turned Industry City into Ghost Town.

In 2013, something changed.

Walking by Industry City, today, you’ll find yourself surrounded by well-designed spaces and trending F&B outlets.

A favorite organic ice-cream brand. A shark-tank winner. A coffee shop which sells the art and science of coffee making, along with your usual cup. A chocolatier. A vibrant coworking space. A hat maker. And more. According to its sources, in the last two years, the entire space “has leased more than two million square feet of space.”

Currently, it hosts 4,500 people and 400 companies.

What happened? Let's take a look.

Mexico’s Mineral de Pozos: A ghost town comes alive as an artist colony

I arrived in eerie, old Mineral de Pozos in the middle of a half-sunny afternoon, with cotton-candy cloud shadows creeping all over the adobe rubble, the reclaimed ruins, the cactus thickets and the little-trod cobblestone streets. Never heard of the place, a hotel clerk had said in Spanish as I prepared to make the 50-mile trip here from Querétaro. Another clerk piped up, I have. It’s small. Very small, said a taxi driver. Now I was here, paying the cabbie, waving goodbye, turning to face a scene as dusty and forsaken as the one Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid found upon their cinematic arrival in Bolivia. Bleached skulls hung atop old poles. The hands on the clock that towered over the main plaza were frozen. At an abandoned chapel that now serves as a goat pen, 4-foot cactuses rose from the eaves. I could have fired a cannon in that main plaza and hit nobody, although it might have disturbed a sleeping dog or two.

The Mexicans call their ghost towns pueblos fantasmas, and Mineral de Pozos -- about 185 miles northwest of Mexico City and 40 miles northeast of San Miguel de Allende -- is one of them, a relic from the great Mexican mining boom of the late 19th century.

But Pozos isn’t dead. It’s slowly growing, its ghosts joined by perhaps 3,500 residents who have begun filling the reclaimed ruins with contemporary art and pre-Hispanic music. The town has three hotels, eight to 10 art galleries (depending on how you count them) and perhaps 50 Americans, many of them artists, who live here at least part time.

But none of that quite gets at the nature of the place. If the Mexican acordionista Flaco Jiménez and Texan guitarrista Willie Nelson ever team up to make a concept album about regret, decay, renewal and high-desert succulents -- which they should -- they’ll have to shoot the cover photo here.

I found my hotel, the Casa Montana, asked about a guide and soon was shaking hands with Marco Antonio Sánchez, whose family history tells the story of Pozos: His grandparents worked in the mines. Sánchez, on the other hand, earns his living by making, selling and playing pre-Hispanic musical instruments and occasionally guiding newcomers like me. (We spoke mostly Spanish, but he seemed to understand every word I uttered in English.)

We started our tour in the middle of town, where forsaken structures seem to outnumber occupied buildings about three to two. Out on the edge of town, the ratio is more like 10 to one. And then there are the outskirts.

At one rustic crossroads between town and the Santa Brigida mine to the northeast, we stopped to ask a local named Pepe Fernández about road conditions.

“It’s ugly this way,” he said in Spanish, looking up one rugged path. “But it’s uglier this way,” he added, looking up another.

Still, it was only a few miles. Before long, we were crouching amid the ruins of an old mining hacienda, the sky spread above where a roof should have been, peering into the black depths of an old well (pozo).

Muy profundo, Sanchez warned me. (Pozo: well. profundo: deep.)

At the Santa Brigida, a trio of bulky stone ovens loomed like pyramids or maybe smokestacks on a half-buried cruise ship. At the Hacienda de Cinco Señores mine on the west end of town, the buildings arched and sprawled down the hillside, the walls riddled with strange openings that once held all sorts of mineral-extraction machinery. Crazy sunbeams and shadows all over.

Some of the old mine sites are owned by individuals, some are owned by ejido, or communal, organizations, and some are in dispute. Sometimes a modest admission fee is asked, sometimes not.

As for measures to ensure safety or prevent vandalism -- there are nearly none. At Santa Brigida and Cinco Señores, the biggest sites, deep shafts were minimally marked. It’s a rotten place for unsupervised kids, an excellent place for hiring a guide. (There are a couple of them in town who speak more English than Sánchez.)

I’m not proposing Pozos as a honeymoon spot either, and I recognize that most travelers probably wouldn’t choose this destination by itself. But Pozos lies just under an hour’s drive from San Miguel de Allende, one of the bigger magnets for culturally inclined tourists in all of Mexico about an hour from Santiago de Querétaro, which has a fascinating historic center and a convenient airport and about two hours from Guanajuato, another artsy town that’s rich in history and collegiate energy.

So if you’re a painter, photographer, history geek, architecture dweeb, mineralogy wonk or just a seeker of singular landscapes, this could be the beginning of a larger adventure.

And it’s a cheaper adventure now: After two years of trading at 10 or 11 pesos to the dollar, the peso on my visit last month had weakened to about 13 to the dollar.

Security will be a question, but if you comb through the U.S. State Department’s 34 paragraphs of current crime-and-safety warnings to tourists in Mexico, and Pozos doesn’t come up. Several locals told me the crime wave elsewhere hasn’t made much difference in daily life here, except perhaps to slow the flow of visitors.

Every May, there’s a mariachi festival every July, a pre-Hispanic music festival every September, a celebration of the nopal and maguey plants. (The nopal, a.k.a. prickly pear cactus, is an occasional ingredient in tacos and egg dishes. The maguey, a.k.a. agave, is an indispensable ingredient in tequila.) There are art walks in summer and winter, and one or two home-and-garden tours annually.

For a few years now, Fernández has been leading horseback tours, charging about $20 per person per hour. This year, two galleries and two craft shops have opened.

As I drifted off to sleep that first night, on a four-poster bed in a spacious, well-appointed room, I imagined the whole town as an artifact carried back by an artist to the studio -- not a conventionally pretty artifact, but an absorbing one, evocative, compelling, mysterious.

And then I wished I had aspirin, because Pozos is about 7,500 feet above sea level and my altitude headache didn’t subside until the next morning, when Sánchez led me through the landmarks of the town’s resurgence.

Of course, Teresa Martínez was on the itinerary. Fifteen years ago, Martínez told me, she’d come to town to lock herself up for two years and write a novel. Instead, Martínez (who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, but spent many years studying and working in California and New York) wound up launching herself as an entrepreneur.

By 1995, she had converted a former cigar factory into a five-room hotel/restaurant/gallery. In one guest room at her Casa Mexicana, a 20-foot living pepper tree shoots through the ceiling. Another, known as the Tower, is arranged as a four-level loft, suitable for a Mexican Rapunzel.

After all these years as a pioneer, Martínez admits to some weariness. In fact, she recently closed her restaurant, Cafe des Artistes, and cut the Casa Mexicana to Thursday through Sunday nights. But she has also added spa services and massages and may reopen the restaurant in January.

The next chapter in the Pozos story stands next door: the Casa Montana, a hotel/restaurant/gallery that came along in 2000, giving Martínez competition but also reassuring her that, in her words, “I wasn’t crazy.”

This venture was created and is run by Susan Montana, an expat from New Mexico. Instead of taking on a ruin, Montana built from scratch, hiring laborers who used the same local chipped-stone masonry style seen in buildings all over town. (Martínez and Montana also both double as real estate agents, courting American buyers with rehabbed houses priced as low as $95,000 to more than $300,000.)

But the latest lodging competition in town -- and the most formidable -- is the Posada de las Minas, opened in 2005 about a block up the hill and designed and run by David and Julie Winslow of Houston and Pozos.

It’s the largest lodging in Pozos (eight rooms), festooned with folk and contemporary art, with a central courtyard, restaurant, whirlpool and gardens, the interiors as saturated with color as the streets outside are bleached by the sun.

When they bought the property, David Winslow told me, “There were no ceilings and no floors on the second level. And only one of the columns in the courtyard was standing.” Now there are six columns around that courtyard and a retractable roof above. Next time, I’ll stay at the Posada de las Minas.

As with the other lodgings, the Winslows’ inn gets most of its visitors on weekends (when the galleries are open), and summer and winter are much busier than spring or fall. Though most overnight guests in town are upscale Mexican travelers, all three innkeepers aim to woo Americans seeking a smaller, slower San Miguel de Allende.

By the way, if you’re keeping score at home, you’ve counted a collective 18 rooms in the town’s three hotels. In my rounds, I saw 17 of them. (One lock was broken.) And I came to realize that on the night I arrived, I was the only hotel guest in town.

Alas, the solitude didn’t last. Before the next morning, a quartet of stylish, Spanish-speaking women turned up for a meal at the Casa Montana, and a couple of photographers had checked in at the Posada de las Minas. But in a town like Pozos, it’s easy enough to imagine being an Omega Man.

Pozos was born in 1576 as a mining town, and grew in fits and starts alongside half a dozen other boomtowns in the high, rugged central region that Mexicans call the Bajío. By the last years of the 19th century, the number of working mines had reached 300 and the population in Pozos alone had reached 70,000.

But then came the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Mines began closing down, and many flooded. Silver prices fell. And it didn’t help that many Pozos residents were militant Catholics at a time when the Mexican government was dominated by anti-Catholic forces. Pozos was doomed.

By the 1950s, some say, the town had shriveled to about 200, and it became a half-forgotten exurb of the small city of San Luis de la Paz, about 5 miles away.

Still, if you look closely up the streets of Pozos, you see signs of its new bohemian life.

In 1982, the Mexican government declared the town a national historic treasure. On Calle Centenario and Leandro Valle, two streets that miners used to walk to work, the Sánchez workshop, Camino de Piedra, is one of three storefronts devoted to the making and selling of pre-Hispanic musical instruments, mostly drums, flutes and whistles.

Three more instrument-makers are scattered elsewhere in town among the galleries and studios, including Galería 6, which Nick Hamblen and Manrey Silva opened about four years ago.

Their live/work space, on the Jardín Principal near the Casa Montana and Casa Mexicana, includes a generous garden, a pair of battered cowboy hats hanging on the stone wall, a bevy of pet birds, and a jar full of yellow and green feathers. Most of their sales -- as diverse as abstract paintings and photography -- are to American visitors and expats, and most of the art they show is made by expats.

Another studio and gallery belongs to Dan Rueffert, an artist who spent three decades in nearby San Miguel, then bought property here and invested in a restaurant. Now he can stroll two blocks from his almost-finished home to the eatery he co-owns, Los Famosos de Pozos.

If Rueffert continued two more blocks, he’d be at the high-walled house of Beverly Sky, a fiber artist and paper-maker from Boston who first saw the place five years ago and now spends about four months a year here. For “the price of a parking space on Beacon Hill,” she bought an artist’s home with 150-year-old walls and a triangular courtyard. As she showed me around, the morning chill eased and the courtyard lighted up.

“This is classic Pozos,” she said. “A little bit cold and chilly, and then the sun.”

I headed back out to the dusty street, where a tethered horse sipped from a bucket. In the town’s only bar, the barkeep hunkered down beneath his collection of boxing posters and historic photos.

I flashed back to a moment out at the mine site the day before. I was coming up a hill, a few steps behind Sánchez, when he abruptly halted, grinned and pointed.

But he was pointing at a prickly pear cactus in front of a crumbling wall. Working with something sharp, some man, woman or phantom had carved a near-perfect cross out of the flesh of the cactus. The bright blue sky and fast-drifting clouds shone through the freshly cut-away shape.

10 best Texas dance halls

Long before Pandora and Spotify, music lovers found entertainment at dance halls. In Texas, the tradition continues in sites that have become cultural landmarks. "You're someplace special, and the music is respected and honored. It's a whole encompassing experience," says Joe Nick Patoski, a journalist who hosts the weekly Texas Music Hour of Power. He shares some favorite spots with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Gruene Hall
Gruene, Texas
Bands go out of their way to play Gruene, which calls itself the oldest dance hall in Texas. Located in a former ghost town, the white clapboard saloon helped launch stars such as Lyle Lovett and George Strait. On summer nights, the un-air-conditioned space with a wooden dance floor packs in crowds. "It's a good sweat," Patoski says. "If anyone plays the Texas circuit, they play Gruene." 830-606-1281

Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon
This classic country music venue, where Willie Nelson once played with the house band, now calls itself Texas' largest LGBT country and western club. "This is where modern culture meets old tradition," Patoski says. "It shows how pervasive country dance music is in Texas. It doesn't matter who's doing the boot-scooting. It's the same old thing." 713-677-0828

Billy Bob's Texas
Fort Worth
While the world's largest honky-tonk might not be an intimate venue, it offers such extras as bull riding for guests willing to sign a waiver. "It's an urban-cowboy setting. They have big headlining acts, and what it lacks in history and texture, it makes up in bigness," Patoski says. 817-624-7117

Music City Texas Theater
Linden, Texas
This former theater is the go-to place for music in East Texas, Patoski says. While it's a sit-down performance venue, which makes it more like an opry than a dance hall, it has a deep history. It's run by Richard Bowden, who played with Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who went on to form the Eagles. 903-756-9934

Broken Spoke
This Texas institution celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Now it's a holdout, surrounded by a new mixed-use apartment complex. "They're used to be dozens of honky-tonks like the Broken Spoke," Patoski says. "You can't come to Austin without going to the Spoke if you want to have a music experience." 512-442-6189

Stagecoach Ballroom
Fort Worth
This family-run hall maintains an old-school atmosphere with vintage lights and a 3,500-square-foot floor for twirling couples. It even offers free dance lessons before many shows. "If you're in Fort Worth and you want to hear country music, this is where to go," Patoski says. 817-831-2261

Luckenbach Texas
This legendary dance hall found its fame in the Waylon Jennings song that took its name from the Hill Country ghost town. Patoski says the song doesn't do it justice. "Luckenbach is like stepping back in time 100 years. It's a great place to pitch washers and horseshoes and have a beer, even if you don't go into the dance hall." 830-997-3224

Crider's Rodeo & Dancehall
Hunt, Texas
This seasonal Hill Country getaway along the upper Guadalupe River is one the state's premier outdoor dance venues, Patoski says. "Before air-conditioning in Texas, you always went to the hills to cool off. Why dance in a stuffy old dance hall? Just do it outdoors." It's open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a rodeo and live band every Saturday night. 830-238-4441 on Facebook

In a Former Ghost Town, a Queer Artist Flourishes

On Halloween, a small but devoted group of people traveled across the desert in the bitter cold to Cisco, Utah, to celebrate trans photographer Tiffany St. Bunny and attend an exhibition of photos taken during her month-long artist residency.

The residency, called “Home of the Brave,” takes place in a former railroad fill station and ghost town that’s being resurrected by artist Eileen Muza. The residency will take place twice a year for a month each, and Tiffany St. Bunny was its first resident. Muza states on the Home of the Brave website that the artists should bring everything they need, and she’s not kidding. Cisco is 45 minutes from the nearest town, and has no running water, grocery, gas station, or residents other than Muza. She purchased the abandoned town in 2015 with a clear mission in mind: to rebuild Cisco using salvaged materials and establish a nonprofit artist-in-residence program.

The workspace at the Home of the Brave residency in Cisco, UT (photo courtesy Eileen Muza)

Tiffany St. Bunny, aka “Bunny,” grew up in Oklahoma and is now based in Oakland, California. She is best known for Truckslutsmag, an Instagram account with a corresponding magazine that features images of trucks and the queer and trans people that love them.

What differentiates Bunny’s pictures from other queer photography is the rural setting of the photos and how it reflects her lifestyle, especially how she was raised. “I think a lot of [queer and trans] people in that community are doing things where they see a lot of trucks. It’s different than gay city life, for sure,” she told Hyperallergic.

Bunny’s initial goal was simply to take pictures of trucks, and then her friends got involved. “People would be like, ‘I’m going to climb up on that truck and take my pants off or something.’ I would tell them, ‘Let’s do it.’” As it turned out, those were the images that resonated with her followers. “I think [the photos] touched a lot of people,” she told us. “[They] were also like, ‘Oh, I see myself in this.” At first, Truckslutsmag was popular mostly among the radical queer and trans community, but now it has a broader fan base.

Tiffany St. Bunny, “Crumbwave Dog + Grain” (2019), 12 x 18 inches

Tiffany St. Bunny, “Eliana & Mara in Cisco” (2019), 11 x 14 inches

Tiffany St. Bunny, “LHB & Her Hardbody ” (2019), 35mm, 8 x 10 inches

After working on the project for five years, Bunny applied to the first Home of the Brave residency in Cisco, which took place in October. Out of 60 applicants, Bunny was chosen. It turned out that Muza and some of the jurors were already familiar with Bunny’s work.

When Bunny came to Cisco to begin her residency in October, the temperature ranged from a high of 80 to a low of 19. Bunny had to adapt to the rustic lifestyle, desert climate, and limited amenities. She told us, “The hardest part about being out there was it got super cold.”

The simple life suits Bunny, though. As an adventure guide for eight years and having lived off the grid in northern Alaska for part of a year in 2018, the 37-year-old artist feels most at home with nature. “I am from the country. I grew up in a very rural area.” By looking at the photos, you can see that that Bunny felt comfortable in Cisco’s barren setting. There’s an intimacy that’s captured with the landscape. “The desert is a place of inner strength and peace for me,” Bunny said.

On a typical day, Bunny traveled in and around Cisco shooting for Truckslutsmag from 5–6:30 p.m. to capture evening light. She also photographed a smaller series called Eternal Endless, a commentary on time and the perception of time which captures old, abandoned structures with words like ETERNAL and TIME IS A BUMMER painted on them.

Tiffany St. Bunny, “Endless – Cloudy ” (2019), 12 x 18 inches

Tiffany St. Bunny, “Untitled 1” (2019), 11 x 14 inches

For the Truckslutsmag project, Bunny put a post on Instagram calling for models to travel to Cisco. “I was just able to say hey, I’m looking for models out here, and people came from Salt Lake, Colorado, Arizona, and California.” She said she is grateful that many of the models were willing to drive, sometimes four to six hours, to the very remote location participate in the project.

For Bunny, creating a collaborative work environment is a key part of her process. “I generally give less direction to people I’m shooting for the first time because I want them to feel comfortable. I tell people to bring certain outfits and certain props or to pick things up from the store.” In the pictures, models are dressed up in things like bikinis, a big blue bouffant wig, and Playboy socks worn with black platform stilettos, all posing near trucks. One model in clown makeup playfully sticks out her tongue, holding an assault rifle. Through her photographs, Bunny takes the trope of the off-roading redneck and puts her own spin on it, breathing queer life into the formerly deserted landscape.

Tiffany St. Bunny, “Molly Clownin + Grain” (2019), 11 x 14 inches

Tiffany St. Bunny, “Legs” (2019), 11 x 14 inches

To promote the show, Bunny created a brochure and posted it to her Instagram page. She was also a guest on KZMU’s I Can See Queerly Now radio show. Days away from the opening, the location of the venue was still up in the air. While Muza was hoping to use Bunny’s studio space, Bunny had her heart set on Muza’s cabin. They settled on the cabin because it was bigger.

On a tight budget, Bunny purchased the picture frames at Michael’s and worked up until the last moment to get the photographs in order. The day of the gallery opening, she drove 100 miles round trip to Grand Junction, Colorado to pick up the prints. Then, she had to frame the prints — 16 Truckslutmag images and four Eternal Endless images — and hang them up on the walls for the exhibit. When asked about her work ethic, Bunny reflects, “I have big Scorpio energy and I follow through on stuff. Basically, if I say I’m going to do something, I’m not going to give up.”

The evening was predicted to bring temperatures in the teens and Muza and Bunny wondered whether people would even show up. Muza remembered thinking, “If nobody comes at least we’ll have a party for ourselves.”

Bunny added, “I was like, ‘Who’s going to come out here when it’s 14 degrees? And then a lot of people did.” The Milwaukee-based musicians Saebra & Carlyle performed for the guests, some of who were in Halloween costumes.

Despite the freezing cold and the last minute rush to prep, Bunny feels the show — and the residency that made it possible — were successful. “I think a lot of people have feelings of low-key imposter syndrome all the time, like I’m not a ‘real artist’ and there are so many people that are better than me,” says Bunny, reflecting on the residency. “I think the big takeaway for me was that I am a real artist. I am actually really good at what I do.”

Città Morte: Ghost towns of Italy

Keeping on a track made of ghostly figures and chilling places, we present you a series of articles on Italian Ghost Towns, another interesting addition to our spooky collection of articles for the month of November!

Poggioreale, destroyed by an earthquake (by lachris77 at

Roofless buildings, no plumbing or electricity, streets too narrow for the smallest Fiat, winds blowing trash and debris through empty windows – these are some of the images one experiences while exploring Italy’s Città Morte, or dead cities. Better known to English speakers as Ghost Towns, many of these locations were abandoned after earthquakes reduced the major buildings to rubble. Citizens often decided, or were forced by the government, to move to a new location instead of rebuilding. Whether it was a natural disaster, lack of modern conveniences, or simply the dwindling of an elderly population to cause their abandonment, Città Morte can be found across the entire country.

However, some of these Città Morte have been given a second lease of life as artist colonies or, more often, as a refuge for squatters and illegal immigrants. There are possibly hundreds of abandoned villages and small towns throughout Italy, with a larger concentration in the impoverished and seismically active portions of the south. Below are some of the best-known among them, which can still be visited today.

Bussana Vecchia

Bussana Vecchia, a ghost town in Italy now houses an artists colony

Bussana Vecchia is arguably the most famous of all Italian Città Morte, due to its rebirth as an artist colony. The residents of Bussana Vecchia have also been fighting a decades long legal battle with the local government in order to stay in this ruined city. The town is located in Liguria, close to the French border and under the jurisdiction of San Remo. In the late 19th Century a devastating earthquake made the town uninhabitable and was left to crumble until the 1960’s, when a troupe of artists began squatting in the buildings. Today the former Ghost Town has seen vast improvements thanks to the hard work of its citizen-artists. Dwellings have been rebuilt and portions of Bussana Vecchia have electricity and plumbing, allowing for commercial enterprises such as restaurants and art galleries. Although the town cannot truly be considered “dead,” most of it retains a ruined appearance and continues to be an inspiring motif for artists. Like all Città Morte, its future is uncertain as the authorities attempt to either evict the squatters or, more recently, try to force them to pay rent.

Giardino di Ninfa

This abandoned estate and former town located in Lazio is better known today for its botanical gardens, but certainly qualifies as a Città Morta. Giardino di Ninfa, as it is known today, was once the fairly substantial medieval town of Ninfa. The town, whose roots date back to Roman times, later became part of the Caetani family’s estate before family wars and deadly malaria left it crumbling and abandoned in the 14th century. In the 1920’s, the last surviving descendants of the Caetani used the crumbling ruins as the scene for an English Style botanical garden. Today, the Giardino di Ninfa is popular with gardening lovers (and it has been voted one of the most beautiful parks of Italy), because of their picture-perfect, romantic settings, completed by bridge-covered waterways, ruined churches roped in shrubbery and many types of exotic plantlife. With the last of the Caetanis’ passing, the Giardino di Ninfa is now operated by the Fondazione Roffredo Caetani in conjunction with the conservationist group WWF (see also Ninfa Gardens).

Ruins on the River Ninfa in Giardino di Ninfa (by Mentafunangann at

Tocco Caudio


Pentedattilo, one of Italy’s ghost towns (by GJo at

This medieval Calabrian town has been deserted for decades because of its location, threatened by earthquakes and landslides. Pentedattilo means “five fingers” and is named so for the pillars of rock hanging ominously above it. Since Pentedattilo was evacuated before a major catastrophe, the town is in remarkably good shape in comparison to some of the other Città Morte. Many buildings still have their roofs, including the town church and visitors may wonder why it was abandoned. Today, an organization is trying to restructure Pentidattilo, and recently this ghost town has become the location of a Film Festival. However, one look at the looming fingers of rock overhead, make it easy to realize how even the slightest earth tremor could send the mountain crashing down upon the town itself.


This Sicilian ghost town, located in the province of Trapani, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1968. The old town of Poggioreale barely existed for three-hundred years before the earthquake forced the residents to build a new one a few kilometers south. Poggioreale was not the only town in Sicily‘s Belice valley to be abandoned and rebuilt in a new location after the 1968’s quake. The medieval town of Salaparuta was completely reduced to rubble: not a building remained except for some ruins of its castle. Old Poggioreale fared slightly better and can still be visited in its deteriorated state.

The old Poggioreale, today a ghost town of Italy
Ph. depositphotos/lachris77

For Civita di Bagnoregio (probably the most famous città morta) please read: Civita the Dying city

Ghost towns all that remains from New Mexico’s abandoned, played-out mines

Click to enlargeAl Jazeera/Gabriela Campos

By the late 1800s and early 1900s communities such as Kelly, Dawson, Madrid, Pinos Altos, Golden and Hanover/Fierro proliferated throughout the state, providing the silver, gold, lead, coal and zinc that helped to fuel the industrial western expansion taking place in America. These boom towns, composed of a diverse mix of foreigners, would fundamentally change the demographic character of the state, arising from the dust and often abandoned in equal haste.

In the former mining towns of Hagan, Kelly and Dawson next to nothing remains. In Kelly, a mining head frame stands surrounded by flattened earth there are remains of the once numerous houses located at the base of the Magdalena mountain.

In Hagan, only skeletons of a large coal mining town remain, its adobe and concrete structures mirroring the orange and white of the New Mexico landscape. In Dawson, a lonely graveyard commemorates the hundreds of now deceased coal miners who travelled from Greece, Italy, Mexico and China to the remote high plains of northern New Mexico.

In places such as Hanover, Fierro and Golden, a different pattern of decline prevails. Melting couches, tattered curtains, ornate peeling wallpaper, all indicate different periods of abandonment and decay.

Some former ghost towns have been repopulated. Mining villages such as Madrid and Pinos Altos have found a second life, repopulated by artists and professionals attracted to these unusual spaces.

Today, throughout the state, these often haunting and intimate ruins stand as monuments to the patterns of migration and abandonment in rural New Mexico, a glimpse into a rich history and the people who helped to shape the region.

Please RTFA. A solid, educational essay on a piece of Southwestern history. Accompanied by stunning photography. Some of the best you’ll ever see.


This is the first real mountain town from Denver, and because of that, it’s become the Mile High City’s adrenaline capital. You can jump off rock cliffs on terrifying zip lines or scream through rapids in Clear Creek Canyon. Clear Creek offers more rapids per mile than any other commercially rafted river in Colorado. There are a staggering 18 companies in town offering wet suits and rafting trips. You can rent ATVs, horses, or mountain bikes and explore dozens of trails, one of which is affectionately called the “Oh My God Road!” You’ll find out why when you see the drop-offs without guard rails.

Colorado’s first major gold strike was discovered in Idaho Springs and today the town’s historic main street is lined with Victorian buildings that have been converted to bars, breweries, restaurants and mountain gift shops. Beau Jo’s Pizza is a town institution. For more than 40 years, they’ve been dishing out a hearty pie of what they call “Colorado style” pizza, which means each one weighs 3-5 pounds. Go mountain climbing before you eat the pizza. Down the block, the Buffalo Bar is where to stop for Colorado buffalo or lamb burgers. Buffalo is the leanest of red meats and has less calories than chicken. That’s also the home for the new and stylish Westbound & Down Brewery. Try a CPA (a Colorado Pale Ale).

At the other end of Main Street, Tommyknockers Brewery has been turning out award-winning brews for 20 years, including winning 17 medals at Denver’s prestigious Great American Beer Festival.

Tommyknockers were mythical two-foot-high creatures who lived in mines and caused mischief. If you have the nerve, you can enter the real Phoenix Gold Mine, a place that looks straight out of a Lone Ranger movie. Put on a hard hat and follow a vein of gold through a twisting, dark and damp tunnel, just hoping that the creaking 100-year-old wood beams hold up for at least one more hour. Right in town, the Argo Gold Mill processed more than $100 million of gold in its day. Today, it’s a steampunk’s dream of mining equipment, shafts, belts, wood ladders and stairs. After the tour, they’ll teach you the fine art of gold panning.

A $985,000 Commune To Move To With All Our Pals

My city feels empty lately. When I walk my dog in the now-dark evenings, there aren’t many lights shining. The fancy building a few blocks away only had three apartments lit up at 8 p.m. a few days ago. People have fled. They have put their condos up for sale up and down the street, running (I imagine) away to the suburbs or countryside homes with sprawling land and sky. This is jarring because it didn’t used to be like this. I live close to a bunch of restaurants that used to pump out the smell of roasting vegetables and the laughter of patrons. The whole point of living in a city is that the city feels alive. You live close to your friends, and close to the bar where you know the bartender, and close to activities. You sacrifice price, and space, and natural beauty because that liveliness seems worth it.

It’s not the sudden solitude that’s upsetting, or even the loneliness, it’s that it didn’t used to be this way here. It’s not supposed to be this way here. I wonder if that’s why several people I know have moved to rural areas this year, to places where it’s supposed to be calm and quiet and a little lonely, but for that you at least get something beautiful. I respect this decision, but personally, I like to live close to my friends. That’s why this week’s house is the perfect place to convince all your friends to live a little closer together.


This is more than a house. This is a whole ass ranch. It’s in La Veta, Colorado, which is almost exactly three hours from both Santa Fe and Denver. The closest mountain on the map is named Silver Mountain, which makes sense because what we are about to buy is a mining town!

It is on 300 acres of land. You know the land is grand because the first eighteen photos are all just beautiful landscapes. We are nestled in between the mountains, surrounded by trees. There are snow caps and smaller foothills in the distance. Here on our land there is lush green grass and a wide flat blue sky. There is a trail through some tall trees and an old rusted out car. This part I don’t understand, and will ignore. Here is a cute little creek with tiny cascading waterfalls. All of that on 300 acres. Do you know how big that is? That’s about 226 football fields. That’s 187.5 square city blocks.

That’s a lot of space to spread out. And we know that land, lots of land, under starry skies above, is at least one solution to COVID-19. Cases are spiking. The last COVID-free county in America (Loving County, Texas) just got its first cases. So, yes moving to 300 acres of land in Colorado will not necessarily protect us all by itself. But look at all that sky. Perfect to distance under.


But that’s not why this week’s house is great. This week’s house is great because it’s designed specifically for sharing. On this property, there are nine historic buildings. Six of them have been restored. The first we see is an adorable little cabin. It has a pointed roof and a big porch and looks exactly like the drawings of houses children make: a pair of windows on either side of the front door, a few small steps up.

Inside, the house is cute but not strange. It has drywall and curved entryways. It has a wood burning stove in the corner of the living room, a sunny kitchen window, and cabinets that look custom. Out back it has a wraparound porch. Also, I will live in this house. It is cute. What’s even cuter about it is that it was built in the late 1800s and restored by two siblings.

You see, our property, which is lovingly known as Uptop by people in the area, has been around since 1877 when the nearby town of La Veta had the world’s highest train tracks! Formerly, the property was known as Muleshoe and was a profitable silver-mining town from 1877 to 1899 when the world’s highest train tracks were removed. It stayed popular for a while: coal miners in the early 1900s, loggers in the 1920s, people taking their car for a drive through the high pass in the ’40s. But in 1962 the state of Colorado built a big highway, leaving Uptop off the path, sealing its fate as a ghost town.


But that was not the end for Uptop. It was a ghost town until 2001 when siblings Deb Lathrop and Dianne “Sam” Law took over. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a wonderful blog written by Steven Piccione about how the siblings abandoned their hectic east coast lives, quit their jobs, and moved West. The American Dream in its fullest. According to Piccione’s reporting, the siblings worked to get Uptop listed on the National Register of Historic Places and fixed up six of the nine buildings and now, after 20 years, they are ready to move on. That’s why the property is for sale. It is ready for us to take it.

According to Zillow, the siblings listed the house in March 2019 for $1,350,000 so it is safe to say that the $985,000 it’s listed for now is a steal.

Beyond the main cabin there is a small church with pews (and an altar that definitely could not be used for a sacrifice), three more renovated and partially renovated single family cabins, and then there is the showstopper: a giant, vaulted ceiling dance hall complete with a huge curved wooden bar!


So here is what we are going to do: We are going to form a commune. Think about it. It makes perfect sense! We can gather up three or four other households and form one pod of people that goes West and moves into this former ghost town and fills it with life. “But Kelsey,” you might be saying, “how is this not a cult?” And I will tell you: This is not a cult, it is a commune. Cults have a leader and here we will only have community. We will practice not self care but mutual cooperation. We will believe that we are the ones who keep us safe. We will see people we love on weeks we desperately need to, and be able to hug because we are all together anyway. We will maybe give sustenance farming a shot. We will be so much less lonely if only because there will be no more six-foot gap standing between us, reminding us of how far apart we are.

Of course we can’t live in harmony with our pals forever. Everyone knows that most communes fail, that capitalism can ruin even the most beautiful communities. But we don’t need a space that can be just for us forever. We only need this space for now. Look how large the serpentine bar is. Look how smooth the wood is, how it is the perfect height to lean across as you ask for a single, no. Make it a double. When precedented times return, maybe we can host fancy weddings on our property: small ceremonies in the church, big parties in the dancehall. Definitely no conferences or workshops with Powerpoint. But until then, at least we’ll have this big sky and this space and each other.

The ranch has been listed on Zillow for 282 days. If you buy this wonderful ranch, please give it to me. Dibs on the main house. Thank you.

Arranging Your Own Airfare

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  1. Richardo

    Bravo, the admirable thought

  2. Nakinos

    Thanks for the interesting retrospective!

  3. Che

    I beg your pardon, this variant does not suit me. Who else can breathe?

  4. Doujinn

    Yes you talent :)

  5. Sa'eed

    I congratulate, magnificent idea and it is duly

  6. Dorien

    I'm sorry, but I think you are making a mistake. Let's discuss this.

  7. Temman

    The casual coincidence is perfect

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