The Abandoned Mill


A short story about exploring an abandoned mill in the forests of Sorrento.

It is not noticeable, at least not at first. It blends in with the trees surrounding it, their tendrils creeping over the crumbling walls, snaking through the cracks in the sun stained brick. It is quieter here, away from the crowds of tourists flocking to the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. I have walked down dusty paths which have taken me through lemon groves and over small streams. The citrus scented air is cooler and the intense heat of the day has given way to an evening dusk. The light breeze is refreshing and makes climbing the steps cut into the hill much easier. I leave the lemon groves behind and continue into the forest, where the trees are packed closer together and less sunlight filters through. The air becomes cooler still, the shaded paths protected by overhanging branches, their shadows lengthening as the sun begins to set. 

It is then I catch my first glimpse of it; a crumbling wall set away from the main forest path. I take little notice to begin with, thinking it to be just another pile of bricks, several of which I saw on my walk up here. As I walk past it I realise it is not just part of a wall, but that the crumbling bricks form the side of what looks like a house. Walking closer, I see the remains of a large building tangled into the forest. The formation of the building is clear and there are four large walls set around a series of smaller rooms, but the forest has grown up through it and now there are branches clutching at its remains, growing through the gaps where windows used to be. I later discover this building was a mill, and that there are many of them hidden within the valley. They have become part of the forest, the fern covered roofs hiding them from view.

There is an eerie stillness to abandoned places. It comes with the idea that something which once housed people, something busy, bustling and functioning as a place to work, is now silent. A place which would have been full of noise, producing food for the people of the valley, is now deserted. The complete absence of noise is unsettling; the forest has not just grown around the mill, it has grown through it, over it and within it. Nature has claimed the building as its own, and these old, crumbling buildings have become part of the landscape.

Words: Laura Pendlebury
Photography: Mirko Nicholson