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Pentedattilo the hand of devil cover

Pentedattilo: the hand of the devil and its ghosts

The measures of closure and social distancing to slow down the coronavirus pandemic seem to have transformed Italy, at least for Easter 2020, into an immense “ghost town”.

But perhaps not everyone knows that Italy is already full of true “ghost towns”.

In most cases, these are villages abandoned due to earthquakes, disruptions, or the progressive migration of the population to cities and areas with greater livelihoods. Each Italian region has more than one, but one more than any other has a particularly suggestive history: Pentedattilo.

Pentedattilo, the hand of the devil now uninhabited

Pentedattilo, also known as “the hand of the devil”, in the province of Reggio Calabria, is a rock with a castle whose origins date back to 640 BC. Important economic center for the whole Greek and Roman period, until the seventh century, after Christ served as a sighting fortress against the incursions of the Moors.

The village takes its name from five rocky ridges that emerge from Mount Calvario (250 meters above sea level) and stretch like five fingers (from Greek "pente dachtyla") towards the town. After several earthquakes between 1783 and 1908, a slow migration, which ended in the sixties of the last century with the departure of the last resident, emptied the village.

Pentedattilo castle ruins

The struggle for dominion over Pentedattilo

Pentedattilo is also considered a haunted village. In 1686 a bloody feud between the noble families of the Alberti, feudal lords of the village, and of the Abenavoli, in turn, former feudal lords of Pentedattilo, resulted in the so-called “Alberti massacre”.

They thought to end the dispute between the two families with a marriage, that of the baron Bernardino Abenavoli with the Marquis Domenico Alberti's daughter, Antonietta. Unfortunately, Don Petrillo Cortez, son of the Viceroy of Naples, during a short stay at the Pentedattilo castle fell in love with Antoinette, and as soon as his father died Dominic asked in marriage to her brother Alberto, who accepted.

Pentedattilo Alberti massacre

April 16, 1686: the Alberti massacre

The news of the wedding promises sent Baron Abenavoli in a rage, so much so that he decided to take revenge. On the night of April 16, 1686 (Easter Sunday) Abenavoli introduced himself with some armed men to Pentedattilo, killed Lorenzo Alberti in his sleep, and then tortured and killed everyone else in the fortress that night, including Lorenzo's younger brother, only 9 years old.

Only Antonietta and Don Petrillo Cortez (taken hostage) was spared and taken to the castle of Montebello, where Bernardino forced Antonietta to marry him. When the viceroy of Naples learned of the massacre and kidnapping of his son, he sent an army, attacked the Abenavoli castle and, freed Don Petrillo, captured and killed seven perpetrators of that terrible night, beheading them and hanging their heads on the battlements of the castle of Pentedattilo.

Pentedattilo ghosts 

Heartbreaking screams and ghosts on the run

Bernardino and Antonietta managed to escape: she took refuge in the cloistered convent of Reggio Calabria living there until her death, full of guilt for having been involuntarily the cause of the tragedy, he reached Malta, then Vienna. He joined the ranks of the Austrian army and died in the summer of 1692, hit by a cannonball.

Since then in Pentedattilo, on windy nights, more than one has sworn to have heard the excruciating screams of Lorenzo Alberti while a legend has it that every night of April 16 of each year strange shadows similar to figures of mothers flee the streets of the village, holding their children by the hand, chased by figures armed with knives.

The rebirth of Pentedattilo (it will be stronger than the coronavirus)

In recent years Pentedattilo has been rediscovered, partially restored (even if one of the five "fingers" collapsed a few years ago due to bad weather) and is home to a popular short film festival, the Pentedattilo Film Festival. Too bad that due to the coronavirus emergency this summer (and perhaps the next) it will be impossible to organize it, at least on-site.

So the village and its ghosts will have to resign themselves at least for some time to become truly a ghost village. But knowing the tenacity of the Calabrian people, we can be sure that Pentedattilo will be stronger than the coronavirus.

Tags: Ghosts, history