With its enchanted gardens, eerie catacombs, palazzi full of nooks and crannies and abandoned towns, few places in Europe have a more Halloween feel than Italy. Today we’ll be showing you some of the most gruesomely great places for you to visit, guaranteed to strike fear into your hearts…
“Dolcetto o Scherzetto!” Italian children call excitedly on the evening of 31 October, rushing through the streets dressed as Dracula, witches and magicians. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are ancient religious festivals, traditionally marked in Italy by visits to the cemetery, the family dining together and special sweets.
For the past few years, however, the ‘new’ Halloween – of fancy dress costumes, spine-tingling decorations around the house and in the garden, kids trick or treating their way through the neighbourhood, and themed parties, especially at clubs and discos – has been making its presence felt here in Italy too. The best thing about Italy, though, is that there are just so many bloodcurdlingly beautiful places there which will send a real shiver down your spine…
Craco ghost town – southern Italy
The small medieval town of Craco has been a genuine ghost town since the 1960s. Fleeing the economic hardship being suffered by people across the southern Italian province close to Bari, the people of the town left in their droves, while those that remained had to be evacuated in 1963 due to landslides. Since then, the town, which is fashioned completely out of stone, has been home to nothing other than deserted streets and the remnants of people who once lived here – a bizarre backdrop which has also seen it host numerous films over the years – including The Passion of Christ, directed by Mel Gibson. And if you dare, you can also search through the deserted houses lining every street on a ghost hunt. There’s certainly plenty to enjoy for any part-time ghostbusters – either on a guided tour or on your own.
Corinaldo, capital of Halloween
This town in the province of Ancona has been celebrating the Festa delle Streghe, the Festival of the Undead, (together with thousands of tourists) every year since 1992. Ghostly decorations made from bones and spiders’ webs, people dressed as witches, demons, magicians and vampires all come together to lend the town a particularly grizly flair on the day. The highpoint of the five-day celebrations (from 27 to 31 October) is Halloween itself, marked by a show featuring music, fire and light throughout the town. For further details of what you can expect to see at the Festa delle Streghe, check out the event’s website.
Hotel Burchianti, Florence
Prefer your ghosts ‘live’? If so, then Florence is the place for you. The small but refined palazzo that has housed the Hotel Burchianti for almost a century now can be found hidden away amongst the chaotic streets of the Tuscan capital, near Piazza della Repubblica. Unexplained incidents are regularly reported from the Burchianti – particularly since Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, spent the night in the hotel’s fresco room, and is said to wander the hotel, looking for his room, to this day. Hotel guests often wake up soaked in sweat, telling stories of the transparent figure of the dictator staggering through the room. Menacing shadows – including hard-working chambermaids and a lady sitting in a rocking chair, busily knitting – are also said to prowl the hotel’s corridors. So good night – and sweet dreams…
Orto Botanico and Castell Borgo, near Lucca
One especially sinister legend surrounds the lily pond at the Orto Botanico, the Botanic Gardens in the town of Lucca, just outside Pisa. Beautiful noblewoman Lucida Mansi preferred to kill her lovers here after spending just one night with them. As her beauty began to fade with age, however, legend has it she made a pact with the Devil, who gifted her 30 more years of youth – in exchange for her soul. When the time came for Lucida Mansi to give up her soul, she tried to make her escape, but the Devil eventually caught up with her, taking her away in a burning carriage. Visitors today report seeing the face of the beautiful noblewoman beneath the surface of the water of the lily pond by moonlight. The burning carriage and sometimes even Lucida’s naked ghost are also said to appear in the moonlight!
Within the ancient walls of Castell Borgo a Mozzano castle, near Lucca, there’s also a huge Halloween parade, with witches, demons and vampire dancing wildly to Satanic music. As well as this, the castle puts on a wide-ranging programme of events lasting four days. So what’re you waiting for? Get down there!
Mummies of Palermo
If you want to experience some serious shivers, you need to be in Europe’s biggest collection of mummies, in the Sicilian capital. The extensive corridors of the catacombs of the Capuchin Crypt in Palermo are home to more than 2,000 real, centuries-old corpses – in various states of decomposition. Most are still wearing suits, frocks, ruched dresses or uniforms. Some of them have nothing more than a naked skull left of them, while others still have skin and hair. Some even have glass eyes, making their appearance particularly gruesome. Due to the climatic conditions, corpses dry out down here rather than rotting. When the Capuchin monks discovered by chance that the tuff stone beneath their monastery helped with mummification, they refined the macabre art over several centuries – until it was finally banned in 1837. Fear factor: 100 percent!
Eerily beautiful cemeteries
The Cimiterio Monumentale in Milan may be less spooky than some of these other venues, but it’s more imposing! With its diverse sculptures, monuments and mausoleums, the cemetery, an oasis of calm, is truly striking. In the past, people would labour hard while still alive to ensure a worthy monument to them survived after their death. The cemetery is home to – amongst others – the monuments of the Campari family and composer Arturo Toscanini. Worth a look with bells on!
When visiting the Catacombe di San Gennaro catacombs in Naples, you’ll see a section of the kilometres-long subterranean cemetery. The underground vaults are sure to strike fear into your heart, as will the millennia-old grave niches, with their frescoes by the early Christian community. At the Cimiterio delle Fontanelle in Naples, visitors encounter tuff stone caves filled with thousands, or even tens of thousands, of skulls and thighbones carefully lined up. Some of the skulls are even decorated with small chains or other embellishment. Entry is free, and you can book a guided tour if you’re interested. Brrrrrrr!
Terrifying tour of Venice
If you love stories about ghosts, vampires and devils, then the gloomy alleyways and illuminated canals of nighttime Venice are at their most inspiring in the autumn and winter months. And if you want to have fear struck into your heart by the mysteries of the lagoon city at Halloween, you can book the Ghost Tour of Venice. Horribly beautiful!
Italy, yes, but slightly less gruesome? Then make the most of our Halloween promotion from 27 to 31 October 2017, and book your holiday for the coming summer season (1 April to 25 June 2018) with 50% off the second person travelling to the following destinations: Catania, Palermo, Bari, Lamezia Terme, Cagliari, Olbia as well as Funchal in Portugal. For further details, click here.