The capital of Italy’s Piedmont, Turin is reputed to be the centre of witchcraft of Italy and is part of the black magic triangle, which it shares with London and San Francisco. Swide chooses some of the most haunted and disturbing features of the city of Turin and its surrounds.
Piedmont and Turin
Italy’s darkest region
The surrealist painter, Giorgio de Chirico, described Turin as: ‘the most profound, most enigmatic, most disquieting city not only of Italy, but of the world’. He wasn’t wrong, there is a darkness that pervades the city, which make it the perfect place for Halloween. Swide combs the streets of the dark city to find 10 of the most haunted and disturbing locations in Turin and the surrounding area.
Perched on a hills of Valenza in the Province of Alessandria is the Villa Pastore, built between 1830 and 1830. Once a grand and magnificent mansion for a Piedmont bourgeois family it has long since fallen into decay, consumed by the surrounding vegetation. Nevertheless the site has been a point of interest for many students of the paranormal because of its reputed haunting of two ghost children. The legend surrounds the death of two young members of the Pastore family, the first a two-year-old girl Elisa who died of tuberculosis and the second a 13-year-old boy Giovanni, who was struck by a collapsing tower while playing piano. The family erected an obelisk to the memory of Elisa and local folklore states that she is buried underneath, while Giovanni is claimed to have been interred in a hidden tomb in the basement of the villa. The resting place of the children is not known, but wherever they are their spirits are thought to still inhabit the house. Elisa appears to visitors of the house, running about playing, while Giovanni can be heard playing piano. Locals report all manner of strange happenings such as cars and electronic devises stopping in the vicinity of the villa, strange noises. It is even claimed that a local child walked, in a trance to the obelisk and saw something that left it so traumatised that it would not speak for days.
A tower in the village of Novi is all that remains of a fortress that for centuries was the centre of conflict between Genoa, Pavi and Milan as each feudal kingdom tried to exert its dominance on the territory. It is no surprise then that the ruins are associated with many different ghostly happening, myths and legends. Once home to Lady Orriga di Campofregoso, a ferocious tyrant who by all accounts had an insatiable sexual appetite, her male companions were, once service had been rendered tossed into the ‘corridor of death’ a specially prepared dungeon in one wing of the castle. The most famous apparition in the Castle of Novi, however is that of the headless knight, who locals claim to have seen riding in circles around the castle, with Latin letters in red painted on his steel armour and a helmet under his arm. True or not, the site has definitely seen its share of bloodshed over the years and that has manifested in the local folklore surrounding the castle.
Set on the banks of the river Agogna, Briga Novarese is a place that is rich in folklore pertaining to the paranormal and witchcraft. Behind the church is a woodland that for centuries has been regarded as a place that exists between dimensions and therefore is host to apparitions of all kinds, from the will-o’-the-wisp, that is known in the local dialect as ‘ciaar’ or ‘San Tuma’ to the many witches that dwell in the ‘Garden of the Dead’ and whose presence is commemorated in the town’s fountain of St. Thomas, which has a part of it called ‘the witches’. It is said that in the early twentieth century, a farmer was asleep near the church when in the middle of the night he was awakened by a very tall, slender ethereal figure. The being let out a shrill whistle and in in response received two more whistles of creatures hidden in the trees. In these woods you could encounter talking animals or strange men no taller than a metre that spoke to each other in an unknown language. Most famously though in this area was the case of a young illiterate peasant girl who in 1847 became possessed and the bishop reluctantly granted the frantic villages’ requests for an exorcism.
The church of S.S. Name of Mary
The church of S.S. Name of Mary, also called Shrine of Our Lady of the Vineyards, is located in Vercelli, in the municipality of Torino and on first impression is a picture of rural tranquillity it is however at the centre of one of the most notorious covens of witches and a culture of witchcraft and Satanism which persists in the area to this day. Official documents dating back to 1684 confirm that the church was used by local girls to summon and cavort with Satan. The novice nuns of the church, trying to save the souls of the young penitents, themselves fell victims of the Devil, thus began a period of sabbatical and demonic ritual in the name of unbridled lust. The nuns became black priestesses and tried in every way to convert the church’s faithful to satanic worship. News of the perversions reached Rome, and finally, in 1784, a papal decree desecrated the church. Though the building is now closed and abandoned, it seems that the negative energy has sunk its roots in this area where at night strange gatherings of witches or satanic rituals are continued. On the walls of the church is written a musical score, said to be the song of the Devil, symmetrical in it’s musical harmony, played the same forwards or backwards and said to summon the Evil One himself.
Abbey of St. Anthony of Ranverso
Travelling from Turin in the direction of France can be found the country of Buttigliera Alta and the Abbey of St. Anthony of Ranverso. Built in the Gothic style it was founded in 1188 by Umberto III of Savoy and then given in concession to the Canons Regular of St. Anthony of Vienne. Inside there are a number of famed frescoes but probably the most unusual is that of the piglets. The iconography of St. Anthony is associated with the pig and the saint is depicted with a pig in his arms. In fact the friars of the abbey raised pigs as the animals were used to treat shingles, the fat of the pig was rubbed on the rash. The pigs of the abbey were given free rein in the town and were allowed to wander where they please. Predating the abbey is a huge boulder, deposited by retreating glacier some 12,000 years ago, that was once used by pagan people for human sacrifices and fertility rituals. Merely touching the boulder is said to be enough to evoke spontaneous orgasm. Nice.
Basilica of San Gaudenzio
The cupola of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, is the symbol of Novara, Piedmont’s second largest city. In the cloisters of the basilica can be found the Canonica corridor, which bears above a gate that allows access to a small courtyard, the image of the Virgin and Child dating from the first half of 19th century. The icon is said to have been set there to dispel the presence of the terrible ‘veiled woman’. The story goes that long ago, inside the courtyard of the alley, there lived and worked a blacksmith nicknamed Mazzagat, who was renowned for his gruff and irascible character. One night, during a quarrel with his lover Celestina, he flew into a murderous rage and killed her. The Mazzagat was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment never to return, but from that moment on the apparition of Celestina was a regular occurrence, clothed in white and wearing a black veil. Once the icon of the a Madonna was erected she n longer appeared
Turin and the Executioner’s bread
Follow Turin’s via Garibaldi to the intersection with Via Misericordia and you will see the façade of the church of the Brotherhood of Mercy. Inside are preserved the relics of the Executioner of Turin, although it is difficult to see that as the church is only open on Sunday for Mass. They are a reminder of the profession in the city that was both feared and despised by the residents of Turin. According to records the Executioner lived on Via Bonelli and while his profession ensured he wasn’t the most popular man in the city, the practice was quite lucrative with the 1575 pricelist 21 lira for a hanging, 36 lira for a quartering and 16 lira to set fire to a witch or heretic. Just how this professional was perceived by the general publc is evident in the superstition surrounding bread in Turin. In those times the bakers of the city created certain loaves based on the hierarchical structure of the city’s governance, do there were different types of bread representing the duke, the knight, the canon and so on. However the bakers refused to represent the executioner, not wanting to bring misfortune on their business. In 1391 the Duke himself Amadeus VIII of Savoy had to intervene, ordering the bakers to produce executioner bread saying: “Either you accept the Executioner as a customer or become clients of the Executioner”. Forced to serve the Executioner’s bread, the bakers passed it over the counter upside-down, as a secret mark of contempt. The superstition still persists in the city that it’s bad look to serve a loaf of bread upside down.
The Tunnels of Turin
Turin can be described as a city within a city. A world of light within a world of darkness, made of underground tunnels, catacombs, deep cellars and secret passages. Underneath the pedestrian area of the city lies the remains of the ancient citadel of Turin, a huge pentagonal fortress that protected the city where it was most vulnerable. It is in this section of tunnel that famous events took place. Pietro Micca, a soldier -, was with a fellow soldier to protect a port of the galleries of the citadel where the French were able to breach the defences. The situation seemed hopeless and Micca decided to blow up a keg of dynamite to collapse the tunnel on the enemy. Micca decided to use a very short fuse and he pushed his companion to safety uttering the famous phrase:”Get up, go and save yourself, you who is more tan a day without bread”. The keg blew and Pietro Micca was killed, his body was recovered from the rubble and he was venerated as a hero. The ghost of Pietro Micca is said to appear regularly along with other ghost associated with the tunnel network. In 1965, a woman visiting the basement of a public museum dedicated to Pietro Micca’, fainted in panic for having perceived the clear presence of hundreds of deaths that surrounded her. More recently, in 1987, tourists claimed to have seen soldiers dressed in green and blue.
Castello della Rotta
A few kilometres from Turin in Moncalieri is the Castello della Rotta built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century and reputed to not only be the most haunted place in Italy but the whole of Europe. Over the centuries it was the scene of many bloody battles and it is said that in a large hall inside the castle there is a fresco depicting scenes of the Crusades and with clear reference satanic symbols. Recent restoration works, a consolidation of a perimeter wall, have uncovered the remains of human skeletons with a sword built into the brickwork. The apparitions are said to include a priest who was buried alive in the fifteenth century (which you appears inside the chapel), a young nobleman that committed suicide by jumping from the top of the castle (whose spectre you can see looking out from the current balcony on the third floor), and a baby that was trampled to death by horses in front of the castle as well as the obligatory headless knight.
Monumento al Traforo del Frejus, Piazza Statuto, Turin
The Castello Piazza is considered the heart of the city, but it could be said that this heart is black for in the piazza is the monument which is said to be a confluence for negative energies and evil. The piazza faces West towards the setting sun and is said to be built upon a vast and ancient necropolis. Not fat away is the famed rondò della forca, an intersection that was once the scene for innumerable executions. However the main site in Turin, for the confluence of evil is the monument at Piazza Statuto, the Monumento al Traforo del Frejus. Built by Count Marcello Panissera di Veglio, it is a pyramidal structure surmounted by a winged spirit under which there are marble figures of the Titans. The winged spirit may be identified as the figure of an angel, the angel most feared: the devil. Lucifer, the ‘ light bearer ‘ is represented with the hands pointing downwards, as in gesture to reject and dismiss the underlying souls of the damned. On top of the head of the angel is a five-pointed star, often used to symbolize the antichrist. In 1983 the city of Turin held a carnival whose protagonist, needless to say, it was the devil. On February 13 a parade past through the streets of Turin, a terrible fire broke out in a cinema near Via Cibrario Statuto. The cause was unknown and all emergency exits were closed and 64 people lost their lives. The Piazza is also said to contain a manhole which is reputed to be ne of the ‘Gateways to Hell’.
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