Castelli e Fantasmi

Castles and ghosts in the hills of Piacenza

The Piacenza province is not only famous for good food, excellent cold cuts and sparkling wines. Numerous castles have always been in the limelight each with their legends and ghosts

In Val Tidone the first stop is the Castle of Agazzano.

A U shaped  fortress with a portico on three sides and   an elegant entrance gate.

Around the walls of this castle is said to linger the ghost of Count Pier Maria Scotti known as  The Buso owing to his outstanding ability with the sword  and the horrible holes he inflicted upon his victims.

The Count was stabbed to death in 1514  and his body thrown in the moat and never found.

Witnesses of  the appearances of ghost Buso  relate a presence that shouts, beats his chains  and waves his sword. The ghost of a tall man, with dark armor  waving his spade and wearing leather pants, boots and a helmet with azure feathers.

A menacing figure and a shivering visit even if witnesses unanimously describe the ghost to be a good spirit.

Leaving the village of Agazzano behind, a few kilometres to the east ,the unique profile of the Castle of Rivalta appears at the horizon  and where stories of two ghosts are waiting.

In the medieval village of Rivalta, the story of the ancient owner of the castle Pietro Zanardi Landi are well known. He was assassinated for rivalry tied to inheritance. It appears his ghost has haunted the fraudulent heirs for decades tormenting their long mysterious  nights without pity.

Cook Giuseppe  was killed over three hundred years ago by the butler whose wife the cook had harassed. Various witnesses claim hearing  “annoying rhythmic noises that seem like  the ghost of Giuseppe  is beating meat”.

Even Princess Margaret of England has had to come to terms with the ghost of Giuseppe. In the 80’s, during a night she was guest in the castle, she  confronted Giuseppe for over 10 minutes while various appliances functioned without being connected to electricity, portraits and objects were moving above all in the wing of the castle overlooking the Trebbia river where the old kitchen was located.

The fact that the Castle of Rivalta is the center of paranormal activities is not surprising. It is still possible to visit the ancient  death pit  or razor pit a cruel device used to assassinate the condemned to the death penalty which was easily applied in the medieval ages.

In medieval times it was common to build trap doors or hatches which opened over pits covered with blades, razors or other blunt objects.

To fall into these pits caused  a terrible inevitable death  mostly for loss of blood, prolonged and endless suffering with broken limbs and injuries from cuts.

Many legends are tied to these “death pits”Rivalta castle

In the Castle of Rivalta the pit was located, and still is today, in its charateristic tower. The condemned were led to the trap door after climbing a narrow spiral staircase and we can only imagine the state of mind of those poor souls.

There are other “bladed pits” in the Piacenza province. In the  Zena Carpaneto Castle, in the Farnese Tower of Bettola  and in the fortress of the Malvacini Fontana Estate in Vicobarone, today site of Podere Casale.

Continuing our trip through the castles of the Piacenza province  we arrive in Grazzano Visconti Medieval village with a fortress which dates to 1400 d.c.

Around these sites so rich in history for centuries a presence lingers and moves between the park and the castle – the ghost of a mistress with a poetic name –  Aloisa.

The story of Aloisa and her sad destiny have been handed down through the centuries.

Aloisa was the bride of a Captain who betrayed her and she died of jealousy and pain.

Since then she has never ceased manifesting her presence to visitors and tourists at times aggressively  even slapping them. It appears that the only way to placate her indomitable spirit is to offer flowers or other homage to her memory.

Others claim she is not a hostile spirit and  in time has become a guardian of lovers, she who had no fortune in love.

She is said to have appeared one day to Duke Giuseppe, a medium and to have guided his hand to trace her portrait: a robust lady, not tall, arms crossed and represented in various statues in Graziano Visconti.

Our tour of the castles and ghosts in the province of Piacenza ends in one of the most mysterious and disquieting  places of the entire province. We are talking about  Gropparello Castle built in the appennines about 30 km from Piacenza. The castle dates to the XI century, a compact fortress with double crenellated   surrounding walls, a courtyard, towers, great entrance tower, double drawbridge, dungeons and patrol paths dug in stone.

In stormy windy nights excruciating cries of a woman can be heard from the dungeons of the castle. Others claim to have felt her presence in the castle, sad and disconsolate, often in the hall of arms.

In any case there are people who swear that in the whole castle strange and unexplainable events occur.

According to the legend, there is the  ghost of Rosania Fulgosio, guilty of having surrendered to an old suitor, Lancillotto da Anguissola. The betrayed husband, Pietrone Cagnano, informed by a faithful servant of his wife’s adultery, vendicated her by immuring  her alive in the secret passages of the castle.

The misdeed is said to have occurred in 1200 and still to date the unfortunate Rosania is desperately seeking eternal rest.

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