Canneto di Caronia: a Poltergeist town

Dear Reader,
Remember Sicilians and superstitions saga on this blog?
Well, mystery and curiosity struck again and Stanito & staff are right there on spot.

It all happened one day, when I receive this piece of news via e-mail:

The mystery of Caronia’s fires, a 10 year long-lasting nightmare. 
A trip to Canneto di Caronia, in the province of Messina, through people and houses burnt down by mysterious fires that have stricken the area since 2004. 
TVs, fridges, washing machines and even couches and sofas catch fire seemingly without an explanation… 

And then the video:

As part of my Sicily plan, Canneto di Caronia was set towards the end of the trip.

What Happened?

First incidents are dated back to 2004 so it’s been going on for about 13 years now. This bizarre phenomenon revolves around spontaneous combustion of mattresses, beds, cars, and devices like fridges and mobile phones, even when these are switched off. Quite obviously, the events couldn’t but attract the attention of physicists, geologist who gave all sort of explanations. Villagers were not convinced though…

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Theories:

Grounded theories vary. It could have been simply arson or old devices and poor electrical cables simply gave up.
Well, arson was ruled out when the devices that caught fire were unplugged. Then something happened: in 2007 an Italian newspaper published a leaked report from Civil Protection, concluding that aliens were the only plausible explanation as the result of the two investigation led to ” 15 gigawatts high power electromagnetic emissions that were not man-made”. Investigation remained open attributing the causes to simply “unknown electromagnetic radiation”.

And then something even more incredible happened! The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, backed the villagers true fears by saying the following: “these fires are caused by the Devil. I have seen incidents like these before. Demons occupy houses and appear in electrical devices”. The interview in Italian is right here.

Another report also detailed a possible UFO landing close to the village, citing “burnt
imprints which have not been explained were found in a field.”

What’s Canneto di Caronia like today?

Years have gone by and eventually the town emptied considerably. Don’t forget that this is the region where superstitions have a big role in people’s lives (read my post on Sicilian superstitions for more on the subject). The episodes have attracted the attention of geologists, physicists and volcanologists, NASA experts without providing an accurate scientific explanation so far or a logical real conclusion to the case. Naturally, the villagers are blaming supernatural entities like UFOs, poltergeists, or other demonic forces, prompting them to evacuate the town.

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Some of the villagers came back but the town still remain in ghost state…

 

 

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How to get A free coffee: the Pending Espresso

Dear Reader,

Italians are masters of many noble inventions and deeds, most of them taken from unnoticed customs in other countries where they did not receive much attention evidently. Truth to be told, we did not invent pizza, pasta, coffee but we certainly invented the way the rest of the world conceives, serves and drinks coffee, starting from the linguistics of it (espressocappuccino, latte macchiato, etc) to the steam-driven espresso machine (first pioneered by Angelo Moriondo in 1884), to the more stylish brands (Illy and Lavazza, my favourite). If coffee has a spiritual home, this is it. Italy.

Today 🙂 let me delight you with some Italian coffee culture.

“Work is that annoying thing that we do between one coffee break and another” – by Maurizio Crozza

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The Espresso-macchiato:  an espresso literally “stained” with a light amount of steamed milk. This is my friend Riccio‘s favourite although she might have transitioned to the more tasteful marocchino, another great invention from north of Italy, which carries a mix of espresso, cocoa powder and milk froth.

In Italy having coffee is a form of art: is a ritual that may be practiced more times in a day depending on the need, before a meal, after lunch, a work break, etc. Come to a bar and live the full coffee experience. A bar, normally very crowded and noisy coffee house, is where people gather to have coffee and meet friends, discuss politics and sports. It’s where they start their day and, at times, where it ends along with an aperitivo.

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This is a typical bar in Rome, more specifically in Ostia Antica, my home town. Normally crowded, this bar is located right outside the train station.

The barista, the man or woman behind the bar who prepares the coffee is key element to this tradition. He joins random conversations, debates, he or she is normally friends with the regular customers. Coffee gives us morning boost, helps digest our food, avoid nappy desire and open the evening together with aperitivos. In few words: coffee rules our lives.

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Cappuccino, my absolute favourite: 50% hot milk, 50% espresso with foam to the top usually had for breakfast. Traditional Italians would curse me if they knew I have cappuccino also after meals, even if I ate fish. I don’t care because it’s just too good.

But let’s go deeper into Italian culture and tradition and explore a very unknown term to most foreigners: a pending espresso, or caffé sospeso or caffé pagato (paid coffee).

The caffé sospeso is a concept mostly unknown to rest of the world, a very old Italian tradition that enchants many because of its romantic simplicity: gifting an espresso to somebody.

Born in Naples during Second World War, this habit came to symbolise solidarity in a very critic moment in Italian history. Those who could afford an espresso at the bar normally would pay for a second coffee to pay for a coffee many times they would pay for another one which would be left pending. This pending coffee would later be given to anyone who wished to have it (normally it would be someone poor or homeless).

In that very moment of our history, coffee became a sympathetic and philanthropic gesture made by any happy person entering a bar.

Precisely because a person was happy, he or she would decide to have an espresso at the bar and pay for an additional one to be assigned to anyone. In few words, an espresso was offered to a stranger, any stranger coming into the bar later on.

This person, aware of the tradition, would go to bartender and ask if there were any pending coffees.

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Nino Manfredi on the most classic Lavazza Caffé ad of 1986.

A Bunker’s Legacy

Dear Reader,

Let’s pick up from where we left off, right at the entrance of Mussolini’s Bunker in Soratte, a 14 km long nest of tunnels and secret chambers.

This is the view of Soratte as we were arriving. From afar you can appreciate the abandoned military stations

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And the actual town of Sant’Oreste, evacuated by the Nazis in 1943 to make it a secret refuge.

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Mussolini must have had a typical Roman catacomb design in mind or else a cult structure for its own bunker as the result is a classic hypogeal refuge. It’s chilly and creepy at the same time. The first thing that got my attention were the warning signs all over the place, both in Italian and German

 

And many more

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Notice the warning signs in Italian and then in German. This place, a true piece of Italian engineering, was also exploited by the Germans: after the armistice in September 1943, the German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring settled in Soratte and forced the local inhabitants of Sant’Oreste to flee the area. He and his troops remained “secretly” inside the bunker for about ten months hiding in the many tunnels they found inside. He liked the place enough to continue some construction works and even added a restaurant decorated with fake windows for him and his troops. I believe Mussolini though was the author of the hospital.
The bunker proved to be highly valuable as it served as unbreakable shield against the 12 May 1944 bombing carried out by two Allied B-17 teams departed from Foggia, Puglia, in the southeast of Italy.
At some point the Commander escaped but not before giving one last order: burn and bury the crates and boxes that contained gold stolen from the Banca d’Italia. Such treasure, dear Reader, is either a legend or never found… Fascinating.

As we kept going inside the air became colder and colder.
There were maps here and there

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Map depicting German control.

And a beautiful radio station

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And the infinite line of tunnels filled with old tracks

The range of tracks we found along the way

Gas masks of unknown date I’m afraid, probably during the Cold War given the look they have

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And finally one of the many back door exits 🙂

Mussolini wanted an Anti-atomic Bunker like Hitler’s

Dear Reader,

It was the year 1937 when Benito Mussolini decided to start the construction of a bunker which is unique in his kind. He probably got the idea from Adolf Hitler as he was coming back from a visit to the Fuhrer around those months. In fact, after meeting in Munich, Hitler took Mussolini to a state visit; they toured around Germany and it is quite possible that during the visit Mussolini got a glimpse at Hitler’s underground bunker/art gallery, where he collected many pieces of art taken from all around Europe during the occupation.

Anyway, after the visit Mussolini came back to Italy and began the construction of his own bunker right on Monte Soratte. The bunker would serve as a private art gallery and as a refuge against bombing.

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They say that Mussolini chose this hill for several reasons, these are the results according to my research:

1- Mussolini himself thought the hill looked like his own head. In fact, it is not strange to hear it called Monte Mussolini.

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Curtesy of Youtube: this photo aims to show that Mussolini’s profile resembles the skyline of the hill. 

2- Some friends who study energy and esoteric explanations to life have told me that Monte Soratte is a big bag of energy that serves as self protection: rumor has it the hill was targeted and bombed several times but due to its unique energetic field bombs never hit the ground but instead they all exploded at mid air. They say that it could probably be explained by the immense calcareous formation that leads to an infinity of natural tunnels that somehow dampened any sort of impact.

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Stanito is standing in front of the many many back doors you find at this site. If you take a peek you can see trucks that used to carry the art collected and that should have been kept safe and hidden.
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The bunker medical station is still there, you can still see the original equipments and beds.

And this is only a small part of all that needs to be known about this curious place.
Next post, Stanito will take you inside the 4 km bunker. Stay tuned…

How thick is an ancient column?

Dear Reader,

there are those things that arouse my curiosity and push me to find answers to the most unusual questions, such as: how thick is an ancient Roman or Greek column?

This came after I was face to face with a dissected Greek column in Selinunte, Sicily. I had never seen one before, at least not cut down like that 😀

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Glad the weather permitted it, this is my own favourite photo of Selinunte. Note the sea in the background 🙂
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A perfectly dissected Greek column cut in many roundels. These are the remains of Temple G. In Selinunte, unlike other sites, each temple is identified with the alphabet letters.

The city of Selinunte rises on a hill, not far from the sea, between Marsala and Agrigento. First inhabited by Sicani and then by the Phoenicians, Selinunte was a Greek colony since the end of the sixth century B.C. Now this site is considered as the most imponent in all Europe, quite rightly. Here I found numerous temples, shrines and altars.
All the temples here in Selinunte are all built following to the canons of the Doric order which is the oldest greek architectural style. It is easy to identify as its main features are simplicity and essentiality which give a sense of order and divine immortality, contrasting the fleetingness and frivolous chaotic world.
The Doric order has columns with no base and with a very simple capital. In other words, Doric buildings were the least decorated. Archaeologists believe that Doric architectural buildings, which were built in stone and covered in stucco, evolved from wooden buildings that were very similar.

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Doric style column, this one seemed smaller than the previous Ionic styled. These are the remains of Temple F. 

 

The distance between each column as well as their diameter can vary greatly: some of them are constituted by sixteen grooves with a diameter of 1.72 m (see my first photo with the dissected columns) while others have twenty grooves and a bigger diameter, ranging from 1.84 m to 2.00 m.

 

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This is what’s left of Temple A, a temple dedicated to the dioscuri Castor and Pollux.

 

Below I’m sticking out of Temple G.

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The Dying Floating City in the Sky

Dear Reader,

Stanito continues her pursuit of hidden gems of Italy that will take you to strange places…
Did you know that in Italy you still find towns where only a dozen people live? And did you know that there is a town that is slowly breaking town? This town, did you know it looks like a floating city in the sky for most of autumn-winter days?

Civita di Bagnoregio, dear Reader, it’s the town I’m talking about… and I’m going to take you with me as I continue telling you the story 🙂

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In Etruscan times, it was a sizeable city above fertile valleys and winding streams in what is now the Lazio region.
But those streams ate at the plateau and eroded its clay and sand base.
In every earthquake, exposed tufa stone and parts of  the city tumbled into the valleys
You can see the evidence today, in narrow streets that end abruptly at the edge of the cliff and in walls still standing.
The population today varies from about 12 people in winter to over 100 in the summer.

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Life is simple in Civita di Bagnoregio and the locals, not used to tourists, continue spending their days doing what they did decades ago; going to the local butcher, buying fresh bread and sitting outside talking to their friends and neighbours.
The village is riddled with tunnels and caves; some may have been Etruscan tombs. Some are used as wine cellars and cisterns
The reason Civita is so unusual is that it is disappearing.
They call it “the dying city” because, gradually, over many centuries, erosion and earthquakes have tugged away at the tufa rock until only this small part remains.


Everywhere you turn, the views across the collapsed hillsides and wide barren landscape,as far as the Umbrian mountains, are breathtaking.

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Tiny Volcanoes

Dear Reader,

I have seen the smallest volcanoes I could ever imagine. Yes. They are tiny and you can find them in Sicily.

It all happened one hot summer…

We were driving through Sicily, the best part of Italy for the record, following a very basic travel map we drafted before departing. This is because, dear Reader, the best trips are those which have the minimum planning component. Satisfaction is guaranteed 🙂

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We set out of Agrigento, 15 km north of town where we found this desolated spot with one particular attraction: the mini volcanoes of Macalube.

They really are very small… look at these photos.

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This place, also known as L’Occhio di Macalubi (epitaph given by the locals) has always exerted charm and fascination over the local people and travellers. In fact the first descriptions of this place date back to big people such as Platon, Aristotle, Diodoro Siculo and Plinio il Vecchio, 200-300 BC. Because of the ancient Roman and Greeks were in the area, they believed that some divinity put in there a source of natural healing as they cherished the gushy mud for beauty and rheumatic treatments.
Lots of legends surround the area, precisely because the Romans and the Greeks loved to believe some devine scheme behind every natural phenomena. Some legends say that the tiny volcanoes erupted following a bloody battle between Arabs and Normans. Another says that a city used to stand in that exact place, but because the locals offended a god or goddess (don’t forget how vengeful Greek gods used to be) the city crumbled down disappearing forever…

Whichever legend says some of the truth we don’t know… Fact is there are many teeny tiny volcanoes and Stanito found them for you 🙂

These are mud volcanoes caused by the rare geological phenomenon known as sedimentary vulcanism, a phenomenon that is directly linked to inconsistent clay terrains interposed by salty water and methane.  When the gas surfaces due to pressure it brings up clay and water with it thus creating a muddy cone. And if you look at it it looks like a volcano crater.

 

Here you can kind of see the size as I’m standing next to one

Fascinating, aren’t they?

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Happy 2016!

Dear Reader,
Happy belated New Year 🙂
Stanito staff is back home in  Mexico after a European adventure tail: Italy, Czech Republic and surroundings.
Some quick photos have been uploaded on the road but now is time to dig in the deep stories of the places we have visited starting from this week! So stay tuned in, dear Reader!

Before we dig into new stories I’ll share with you another short gallery of photos of Italy and Czech Republic. Photo quality is phone so please wait until I upload the real pictures 🙂

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This is Pitigliano. Also known as the Jerusalem of Italy due to its Jews community.
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The Old Spanish Synagogue of Prague. A true jewel.
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The beautiful Castle of Prague
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The Old Town Square of Prague.
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Cathedral of the Castle of Prague

The Biggest Christmas Tree in the World!

Dear Reader,
yes, the biggest tree in the world is not the one in Washington DC White House’s President Park but… in Gubbio, Umbria!

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That’s right, Italians hold the record for the biggest Christmas tree which is drawn on the  side of Mount Ingino since the year 1981.

The tree is 450 mts wide and 750 mts tall which is, in simple words, about 3 soccer fields big. You might not see the bottom as it is cleverly hidden behind the ancient city walls 🙂
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It is constellated by 800 coloured Christmasy lights scattered along the slopes of Mount Ingino

At the top of the mount you see a comet of about 1000 square mts designed by over 250 lights

The entire installation and electric connections need approximately 7,500 metres of electrical cables to light upGubbio_biggest_christmas_tree_umbria_italy_stanito_2

Every year a group of people takes about 1,300 hours of work to assemble all the lights, to run cables and provide for their connections.

When it’s time to take the whole tree off it takes about 900 hours to to remove everything, maintenance and re-stock than previously installed.

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