Halloween is an Anglo-Saxon celebration, isn’t it? Yet if we dig dig dig a-dig dig deep in the history, we realize this is a Milanese celebration as well. It has Celtic origins and dates back to 2500 years ago, when the Celts (the Gauls) settled in England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Northern Italy – therefore in Milan and in the whole Lombardy as well.
After clarifying Halloween is a Milanese celebration as well, we would like you to discover how macabre and scary this city is.
Manoxmano will help you seeking out the mysteries hidden in the chaotic and deafening city traffic… Silence please, do not disturb the spirits from the past.
After this tour in the occult, everything will seem to be different and – one day – when you will walk along these streets again, you can’t help shivering!
Let’s start from the core, the symbol of the city: Piazza del Duomo.
Stand right in front of the cathedral and listen to Carlina story… Rumours has it she still wonders here, in this crowded square.
Carlina was a young girl from the Lake of Como, more precisely from Schignano. At the time and in those areas, according to custom, young brides dressed in black – and not in white as you are used to see – to go unnoticed and avoid brutes to take advantage of them and their youth… It was like a dressing-up! All dressed in black Carlina and Renzino (her young husband) came to Milan to visit the Duomo and see its steeples, as was customary on a honeymoon.
It was a cold and foggy winter day and the two lovers went up to the top of the big terrace… Everything was shrouded in mist, both the steeples and the monstrous figures carved in stone popped out of the fog… Carlina was very uneasy and scared… Why did she is so afraid? What was worrying her?… Alas!
Carlina was keeping a secret, she was pregnant, and she swore not to tell it anyone, not even her dear Renzino, letting him think he was the father. Carlina was sure she would have kept her secret, but once on the top of the Duomo, the thick fog and the scary figures of demons and dragons throw her into panic… She felt to be observed, judged and accused of not being able saving herself till marriage! As scary figures kept popping out of the fog, she gave up: she let her hand slip from Renzino grasp and she started running among the statues shouting and crying… At that point Renzino saw her falling. He watched her body until it was swallowed by the fog. The legend has it that people looked for her body without never finding it. Nowadays many people say they have seen a white-eyed spooky figure dressed in black appearing in the photos behind the newly weds coming out of the Duomo as to wish them a happy life together, since she did not have the change to spend hers.
Now go and make your way to another square, smaller and less famous than the previous one yet very mysterious. You’re in Piazza Santo Stefano – in front of the same name church. Look at your left, another building, another church… Which secret is hidden inside? You can have an idea just from its name: San Bernardino alle Ossa.
Get in, the tour is for free! The watchperson will immediately guess the reason why you’re there and will lead you to the chapel, on the right. For heaven’s sake! The high walls are covered by skulls and bones kept together by a net – not to fall on you. How scary! They belong to people sentenced to death or to the tiny victims of the plague. There’s nothing else to say but one thing more to keep terrorizing you: a spooky legend has it that on November 2nd – All Souls’ Day night – the bones of a little girl – on the left of the altar – are magically brought back to life. She heads a stream of skeletons, dancing all night long… What a fright! Rumour has it that some people heard a loud sound of creaking bones!
Now take a stroll throughout this neighbourhood and just think some time ago it was considered one of the roughest and most infamous areas of the whole city… It is said there was only a big and dangerous forest, with bad people lurking around… Then – during the Duomo construction – a little water course was created to move the huge white marble blocks and the forest was cleared, so that the boats from the Naviglio, could get closer to the building site. This is why this street – close to Piazza Santo Stefano – is named via Laghetto. We would like you to go to No. 2, to discover another frightening story. We are not talking about ghosts, neither bones nor walking skeletons. We are talking about witches, magic and potions. Don’t you believe in witches?
Anyways, right here – in Via Laghetto 2 – the most frightful witch lived. Her name was Arima!
It is said that at night, she organized parties and banquets, prepared potions, danced on the top of the roofs with her disciples and then flew to Piazza della Vetra. Wait, before reaching this area – which was considered one of the dirtiest, smelliest and most dangerous ones – you can’t miss another well-known house nearby, more precisely in Corso di Porta Romana at No.3. Rumors has it that here, at n.3 – in this beautiful but severe building – the Devil lived! Who was him?
Probably, his name was Ludovico Acerbi, owner of this sumptuous palace – named after him.
The legend has it that about 400 years ago the marquise Acerbi, did not care about the pandemic plague and continued organize great parties in his palace. Every time he went out, he went around the city in a black carriage pulled by six black horses and followed by sixteen bodyguards wearing a golden and green livery… What a spooky person! Those people who crossed the streets at night saw nothing but great piles of dead people everywhere, but if they went closer to the Acerbi palace, they only heard music and laughter coming from the main hall where the marquise invited all the nobles of the city to have fun and enjoy themselves – careless about the plague… Pay attention, no one, neither the marquise nor his guests ever got infected! This is the reason why Ludovico Acerbi was called the Devil… Both because of his behaviour and due to the mystery that his house held, where it seemed misfortunes could not enter!
If the door is open, you can have a look at the inner court, but always pay attention! Who knows?! Anyway, stop by and have a look at those two big faces on the gate’s side. Then lift your gaze and admire the low reliefs above your head. Maybe, the Devil really lived here!
The bus will stop in front of Parco delle Basiliche and you will have to get off here! Now enter the park from the same side where you can find the Chiesa di San Lorenzo. As aforementioned, this area was a very rough one and was considered a witches hideout.
It was a marginalized district, characterized by a terrible smell caused by the Vetreschi, leather tanners who immersed the leathers in the waters of the Vetra. It was thus considered the perfect place for public executions and – most of all – to burn witches at the stake. What happened?
The unlucky – either witch or wizard – walked tied down to Via delle Pioppette, crossed a little wooden bridge upon Vetra canal and reached the scaffold.
Do you see that statue, (San Lazzaro Martire) down there? The scaffold was right there!
Sometimes, before being burnt alive a series of tortures – like the breaking wheel – were undertaken.
Don’t you think it was terrible? The worst thing is that under the charge of witchcraft, most of the times, people confessed due to the tortures and many people were executed in front of a large audience!
However, not all the inquirers got away with it! Now, we would like to take you close by, in Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, (the other basilica of the park) so that you can see that what goes around comes back around… You can get there walking along the park or Corso di Porta Ticinese – a lovely area.
This is a peculiar area also due to the fact it is a limited traffic zone. It could seem a little bit shabby, yet rich in traditions and charm.
Have you reached Piazza Sant’Eustorgio? Can you see that statue on the column? That’s what we want you to focus on!
Do you notice something strange on the man head?
He has a sword stuck into his brain! Who is he? He was Pietro da Verona, an inquirer monk who sent so many innocent people to be executed, that one day he was ambushed and wounded in revenge! He remained there, on the top of that high column.
Now forget about witches, scaffolds, stakes, inquisitors and move away! You can take the tram 3 leading to Porta Ticinese towards the city centre, in front of the columns of the beautiful Basilica di San Lorenzo and then get off in Via Torino, at Santa Maria Segreta…
Now relax, because manoxmano wants to take you through some scary ways and – while walking along these narrow and dark streets – you will certainly miss the traffic chaos. Indeed, we are going to tell you a real story, not a legend. The one of a serial killer who lived here, in Via Bagnera.
The story is set in Milan, during the XIX century, more than 200 years ago… And we are in the narrowest street of Milan, la Stretta Bagnera. A master builder – greatly respected by people both for his kind manners and his good work – lived here, ha was known as Antonio Boggia, and became famous as the monster of Bagnera!
Everything started when an old and wealthy woman – Ester Maria Perrocchio – went missing.
Her son get worried after not having seen her for a few days so he started to investigate together with the judge Crivelli that had immediately understood that “il Boggia” was a bit strange… The lady, had actually been in contact with him for some restoration works in her building and shortly after, she went missed. In the meantime, he had skilfully managed to falsify some important documents thus becoming the owner of Mrs Ester’s building. This was the first hint of guilt. Monster? Why did he become famous for being a monster?
After all, he had always been honest and above any suspicion, God-fearing and very friendly… Judge Crivelli really didn’t like him and therefore he kept looking for evidences until he found out that “il Boggia” had been accused of attempted murder… According to the report he lured a man called Comi in his storehouse in Stretta Bagnera, under the pretext of checking the accounts . Whilst the unlucky was bending over the writing desk, “il Boggia” gave him a big blow to the head with an axe. Fortunately, after having recovered he escaped and went to report his aggressor. “Il Boggia” was considered to be mentally ill and interned for a few years in a psychiatric institution.
For these reasons the judge decided not to give in, he was now sure “il Boggia” was a killer! He tried to interrogate him without getting anything out of him… He interrogated the neighbours and the doorman as well, and he finally managed to discover something: one day somebody saw him coming down the stairs – towards the cellars – with a great basket on his back…The building was immediately searched because the judge thought the woman’s body was hidden there… How could the Monster of Bagnera walk around the city with a corpse on his back?
The searching shed some light: hidden in a walled-up cupboard there was the body without legs and head!!! Help!! At that point “il Boggia” was taken down to the cellars, he broke down and confessed he has killed her with an axe…
The investigations continued – in the meanwhile “il Boggia” was imprisoned in jail – and the judge found out new evidences… He tracked down some documents belonging to a man missing few years. At that point, the judge accused him of killing another three missing people – an hodman, a trader and a blacksmith… Crivelli is convinced of his idea, however no bodies had been found yet… The searches continued and a secret room – hiding the three skeletons – was found: “il Boggia” was finally sentenced to death! He robbed his victims and then killed them with his axe. When he was asked why he did this, he answered he was just following his head… He was basically trying to be clever and pretending to be mad in order to be put into a mental hospital. However judge Crivelli knew very well he was lying:“il Boggia” was a serial killer and he had to be judged and executed. That is how the story went. “Il Boggia” was executed in front of many people who wanted him dead!
Did you hear? What a terrible story…
Now continue your tour without any delay… We want to tell you about how Ambrose (who then became St. Ambrose) defeated the Devil! No, no, not Ludovico Acerbi, it was the real Devil, the one with horns and a tail! To hear a bit more about this legend, have a walk, follow our instructions and reach the beautiful basilica of sant’Ambrogio. Surely, you should first go in and visit its cloisters, but wait a minute, we want you to stop here, in the square…
Do you see that column? Get closer, don’t be afraid… Do you see those two holes in the stone?
It is said that the two holes on the column are a mark leaved by the devils’ horns: he was stuck there for two days while fighting with Sant’Ambrogio until he freed himself – after struggling for a while – and went back to hell… It is also said that if you get closer to the holes you will be able to smell an acrid sulphur stink and if you put your ears close to them you will hear shouts from hell… Furthermore, if you put your fingers within the holes you will be in luck!
Now go to the bus 94 stop nearby and get off at Piazza Cadorna. Go throughout the Castello Sforzesco cloisters and breath the park humid air. “What?” you might be wondering “Is this a scary place too?”. Maybe. Most of all during the cold winters nights when the park is shrouded in fog…
It is told that in the foggy winter nights – when everything is covered by the thick blanket of the cold night air – a mysterious figure appears in the distance and gets quickly closer floating like a ghost! The Lady of the Park… She is dressed in black, and her black veil covers her face, it is said she is a beautiful lady, or better, a beautiful ghost!
Once she meets somebody, she holds out her cold hand leading the unlucky through the paths in the woods where the fog keeps getting thicker and thicker, until she reaches a gate in front of a huge villa… Now, the Black Lady opens the gate with a huge key and takes her victim to the halls of the villa, where a spooky music is being played: they start dancing together… Hours of endless dances and the lady never takes off her veil! So scary! But who this black lady is and what is she hiding under the veil? At the break of day, the poor victim – that has now deeply fallen in love – takes off her veil, and what does he see? A skull! Yes, a skull with no eyes! Help! This terrible vision makes the victim run away… The legend has it that all the men that have seen the Black Lady get crazy enough to spend the rest of their lives looking for the villa where they danced with her!
If it is too dark, it would be better to go back home. Instead, if it is time for lunch or a break you can easily forget these scary stories. Remember not to scare your little brothers or sisters with these stories, wait them to grow up a little and then – as good older brothers and sisters – you can tell them! Did you get scared? Oh come on, grab your bite! It was just a different way to know something more about Milan and all its secrets.
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