Halloween is approaching, and forget about carved pumpkins and papier-mâché witches this year. Prepare for a real horror and grisly legends tour of Italy. Discover frightening and scary legends that hover over these areas, from Trentino Alto Adige to Sicily.
Each terrifying stage is rich in history, legends, culture, and, most importantly, horror! Italy has a dark side for you to have a unique and thrilling experience!
Belfort’s ghost in Castel Belfort (Trentino Alto Adige)
A peculiar tower stands over the ruins of Castel Belfort, a stronghold built in 1311 to regulate traffic in the area, in Spormaggiore (Trento). It has been owned by 11 noble families over the years, one of whom, the Reifer family, is the protagonist of this tragic tragedy.
Christopher Reifer married Ursula Künigl of Ehrenburg on May 1, 1460. Christopher, who had already been widowed twice, was fifty years old and had previously shown signs of mental instability.
These indicators became so obvious a few months after the wedding that Ursula, who had been mistreated and nearly strangled by her husband in a fit of craziness, sought support from her family members. She was eventually released from the marital bond following a standard trial. Christopher was preoccupied with the possibility that his wife was cheating on him and that everyone, including his wife and servants, was attempting to poison him.
Even today, legend has it that an old castle lord wanders restlessly around the ruins of the castle, clad in black and armed with a gleaming sword. According to the locals, Christopher’s soul has been trapped in the castle ruins, condemned to search in vain for evidence of his wife Ursula’s treachery.
The White Lady Legend – Castel Duino (Friuli Venezia Giulia)
This is the story of obsessive and pathological jealousy. A knight, irritated with his spouse Esterina of Portole’s giving soul, concocted a scheme to murder her. He lured her into the sea from the castle walls one night; as she fell, she screamed and remained lifeless.
Every night since that day, the lady has detached herself from the rock and crossed the rooms of the castle up to that of her child, only to return at daybreak to transform into white stone.
The original medieval castle of Duino, is now in ruins. It was replaced around 1300 by the current private mansion, which was opened to the public in 2003.
The witches’ village – Triora (Liguria)
For this episode, we return to 1500, to Triora, a lovely village nestled between the mountains and valleys of Liguria. At the time, one of Italy’s most renowned and brutal trials was taking place. Some women had been accused of witchcraft, and the rituals that were carried out at the time were so harsh that Triora received the nickname Salem d’Italia. This refers to the historical witchcraft trial that took place in Salem in the late 1600s.
According to legend, after a drought and terrible hardship, the people blamed several local ladies. Thirty women were detained, with some pleading guilty and being tortured and imprisoned in the country’s prisons. One of them flung herself out the window while awaiting the trial, and another died as a result of torture.
As the environment deteriorated, the inquisitors relocated to Genoa and launched a witch-hunting campaign including neighboring countries. The Doge asked the Holy Office to conclude the trial in 1589, but there was no word of these women.
In commemoration of these events, the Strigora festival is celebrated in the streets of the hamlet every year on the first Sunday after August 15th.
Azzurrina – Montebello Castle (Emilia Romagna)
The legend of Azzurrina can be found in the castle of Montebello, in the village of Montebello Torriana. Guendalina Malatesta, the girl, vanished without a trace during the Middle Ages…
She was born with albinism, a condition that was deemed abnormal at the time, and was an incarnation of evil. According to legend, the family locked the girl up in their castle to prevent charges of witchcraft. Even after numerous attempts to darken her hair to disguise the frightening pale color, these discolored in blue… hence the name Azzurrina.
Azzurrina went up to the castle cellars while playing on the night of the Summer Solstice in 1375, remaining stranded in the snow. When her parents realized her departure, they sought her out in vain. So, even today, it appears that her ghost walks around the castle’s basement, and you can hear her moans and laments throughout the evenings of the summer solstice.
The Sword in the Stone – San Galgano Abbey (Tuscany)
The Abbey of San Galgano, around 30 kilometers from Siena, still houses the sword in the stone. It is reported that it was placed in the stone by the knight Galgano Guidotti, who used it as a cross for his prayers after opting to renounce the dissolute life and retire as a hermit. Throughout history, three monks sought unsuccessfully to steal the sword, but instead broke it and were chastised by divine punishment. One drowned in a river, another was struck by lightning, and the third was attacked by a wolf who only spared his life thanks to Galgano’s intervention.
Monster Garden – Bomarzo Gardens (Lazio)
The sculptures housed today at the Bomarzo Garden, which are deemed grotesque, are the outcome of an improbable love tale.
The Bomarzo Gardens were commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini in 1552. Following the death of his loving wife, he decided to transform the enormous rocks in the yard into personified characters inspired by literary legends and mythology. To this day, these powerful sculptures represent the challenges that every relationship, as well as every person, confronts throughout their lives.
Glauco, a character with a large face and a wide open mouth who represents change, is maybe the most iconic. Moreover, it is based on the legend of Glauco, a shape-shifter who became a sea god after consuming a mystical herb.
Orvieto spring – Orvieto (Umbria)
This symbolically rich well is located in Orvieto. Built in an attempt to create a water supply in case of siege, it has now become a symbolic place to redeem one’s sins in order to enter Paradise.
Originally known as the Pozzo di Orvieto, the friars of the time were inspired by an Irish legend and opted to devote the monument to Ireland’s patron saint. Specifically, according to legend, St. Patrick went to meditate in a cave near Lake Lough Derg in Ireland. However, it was thought that the cave also represented the entrance to Heaven.
As a result, Saint Patrick exhorted the faithful to enter the cavity and reach the bottom, dying, in order to atone for their sins and enter God’s Kingdom.
In fact, the phrase Pozzo di San Patrizio now also means mysterious and boundless reserve of riches.
Mummy Cemetery – Church of the Dead in Urbania (Marche)
In Urbania, in the Marche region, you can come face to face with a mummy, which is not something you see every day! I challenge you to visit the 18 bodies stored in a crypt under the altar of the Church of the Dead if you have the courage to sell. The other three are skeletons, while 15 are well-preserved.
The bodies were discovered in 1833 and were believed to have been mummified about in 1600. To this day, there are numerous ideas as to why mummification occurred, none of which are conclusive.
There are also many questions about the conditions surrounding death. There is a boy with Down syndrome, as well as a man who was executed by hanging and is still in the constricted posture he was in on the day of his execution. If these stories haven’t yet impressed you, it’s reported that a man was buried alive and today, he’s still with a crushed belly, shivers, and all of his muscles tense…
Templar Mysteries – Castel del Monte (Puglia)
Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage monument, is home to an obscure mythology that has left many questions unanswered! The fortress’s layout, which recalls the number 8 endless times, is considered to represent infinity and the unity of man and God. The castle has an octagonal plan, eight rooms in the maze, eight windows each story, and so on…
The selection of the number 8 has given rise to numerous speculations and thoughts. It is supposed that Frederick II frequently met in great secret representatives of the most prominent religious groups of the day… and some even speculate that the Holy Grail was stored there!
Zisa’s Mysteries – Castello della Zisa (Sicily)
This mythology is housed in the castle of Zisa, close outside Palermo, as protagonists of the genuine devils. An enormous Baroque mural representing the devils of Zisa can be found at the palace’s entrance. According to legend, counting the devils shown in the picture is impossible: indeed, anyone who attempts will be hindered and perplexed by the castle keepers!
Legend has it that the youthful Zisa (El-Aziz) and Azel Comel left Libya and sought sanctuary in Palermo. After ordering the castle’s building, the little girl committed suicide after learning of her mother’s death. Azel, now alone, let himself be absorbed by the pain and protected his wealth with a spell reminiscent of Zisa’s legendary devils.
Pumpkin garden (Campania) – Halloween pumpkins
The most extensive pumpkin garden in Europe, located in Caserta, is open till October 31st. With almost 7,000 square kilometers, you may immerse yourself in the American spirit.
Featured Image Credit – Halloween in Italy