There are so many ghosts in Emilia-Romagna that it practically rivals Scotland and the ghosts that inhabit the castles there. Many are in Romagna, in the Province of Rimini to be precise, and they regularly “come to life”.
In about a dozen castles in the area of Rimini the presence of ghostly figures has been recounted from time immemorial and in some cases we can even hear their voices, pleas for help, or sobs, as is the case with Azzurrina, who wanders around the Castle of Montebello in Torriana, a stronghold, which, seven hundred years ago, belonged to her family: the Guidi Counts.
Let us begin our ghostly 3 day tour.
Among cities in which paranormal phenomena have been recorded, which feed the imagination of the young and old alike, there is Santarcangelo, where, on moonless nights, in the upper part of the Malatesta Fortress, the ghost of a young bride wanders around ceaselessly. It is the ghost of the renowned Francesca da Polenta who married Giovanni Malatesta known as Lo zoppo (the cripple). We do know that she stayed here, but we are not sure whether she died here, murdered along with her beloved Paolo by her husband.
In this fortress white billowing capes caught in a sudden gust of wind have been seen fluttering along the walkways and corridors.
Fact remains that the presence of these figures made of spirit are not only recounted by word of mouth and witnessed by people in flesh and blood, they have also been recorded by sophisticated equipment that captures their images and words, or rather, their sounds.
Modern technology has come to the aid of legend and today even the most disbelieving people seem to have to give in to what the equipment reveals: all you can do is believe!
The story of the little Ermelinda Malatesta, daughter of Costanza and Ugunuccio, is well renowned. On 21st June 1375 she disappeared mysteriously in the cold storage room of the castle and was never to be found again.
Her nick name Azzurrina was due to the tint that her mother applied to her hair in order not to reveal that she was an albino child. At the time, in fact, she would have been suspected of witchcraft. The vegetable concoctions employed gave the little girl’s hair a particular bluish tint just like her lovely eyes.
From the stories that have been passed down to us it has emerged that her father always had the little Guenda escorted by two guards, and that he did not allow her to leave home due to those popular beliefs. But on that day something went wrong.
On 21st June 1375, on the summer solstice, Azzurrina, who was always watched over by the guards, was playing in the castle with a ball of rags, because the weather was bad.
The little girl chased the ball and fell through a trapdoor.
The guards, who heard her cry out, ran to see what had happened, but they never found Guendalina or her ball again!
But Azzurrina stayed in the castle, and we can hear her on the day of the summer solstice every five years, when the year ends in a 0 or a 5!
At the end of the summer solstice, every five years, you can thus hear the sound of footsteps and of sobbing coming from the cold storage room.
On those days, various recordings have been carried out by experts and researchers in order to pick up some sounds made by the ghost of Azzurrina, the recordings are played at the end of the guided tour: what do you think you will hear?
Travelling up along the Marecchia River, you reach Verucchio, where, on particular winter nights, tradition has it that the phantom wagon of the Malatesta appears pulled by oxen, as it travels across the village and then falls down the bank that leads to the river.
Verucchio, too, has a Malatesta Fortress, one of the largest and best preserved. It is also known as Rocca del Sasso (Fortress of Stone) due to its position on top of a spur of rock that overlooks the town and that dominates the whole of the surrounding area. Here, Mastin Vecchio was born; he is considered to be one of the forefathers of the Malatesta, and is mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy.
Continuing up along the river, you will reach the ruins of what used to be the old Maiolo, where the castle and fortress where destroyed in 1700 by a landslide that dragged them down towards the valley after a violent thunderstorm.
According to legend, however, this terrible fate was Divine punishment for the “angelic dances” that were held there, which desecrated Lent, a period of penance, chastity and fasting.
On a full moon night, during one of these erotic feasts, an angel appeared to the guests announcing a terrible punishment if the dances were to take place again. But temptation got the better of them, provoking Divine Wrath. A particularly powerful streak of lightening split Mount Maiolo destroying houses and palaces and killing people and animals alike.
Some of the damned souls are said to wonder around restlessly, and in the woods below strange sightings of figures dancing in the light of the full moon have been reported.
Today, nothing remains of the old Castle, while the two polygonal towers of the fortress are still standing and can be reached with a rather long walk, which, however, is very pleasant as it winds through breath-taking scenery and affords a magnificent view of the San Leo fortress.
Nowadays, Maiolo is also famous for its bread, which is made with local flour and according to traditional methods, and to which a fair is dedicated at the end of June, the Bread Fair.
In the Valley of the Conca River, the hamlet of Montefiore is home to old, rather strange ghosts, because they seem to choose various homes in which to appear, though tests carried out recently with special equipment found them once again in the Malatesta fortress.
In fact, the Fortress is the site of a timeless love story that dates back over 640 years between Costanza Malatesta and the German lancer Ormanno. It is such a romantic and tragic story that it has become legend.
Costanza was the daughter of Ungaro Malatesta, the Lord of Montefiore, and as she was widowed at a very young age, she began an affair with Ormanno. But Galeotto, her great uncle, who was against the relationship, paid a killer to murder the two lovers when they were together.
But as we know that true love survives throughout time, nowadays some people swear they have seen the ghosts of the two lovers wandering around the rooms of the castle.
A trip to the Fortress, an important symbol of the power of the Malatesta in the Conca Valley, is an absolute must, and on sunny days, from the terrace above, the view encompasses the whole area from San Marino down to the sea.
So in the area of Rimini there are ghosts to meet every requirement! Try to find them, but be careful: you might actually meet them!