Driving along the Ionian Coast, in the Italian southernmost region of Calabria, you can see the unusal peak of Monte Calvario sticking out like a sore thumb. In English its name is Mount Calvary, this is in reference to the place where Jesus was crucified. The suggestive aspect of this place doesn’t end here.
Going up the hill, the road narrows to a single winding ribbon of asphalt and a spectacular vista reveals itself: an enigmatic village built into the fingers of a giant stone hand at the edge of the breathtaking panorama of the sea and the Etna Volcano in the nearby Sicily.
The magical appearance of Pentedattilo is such that the Dutch artist Escher depicts it in a number of lithography when he journeyed in Calabria. Pentedattilo was defined by Edward Lear, a traveler from the 1800s as ‘the strangest human habitation’ for its eccentric splendor, in his ‘Diary of a Calabrian walking journey’ (free translation) during his Calabrian voyage, in 1847. Today, however, the stone built and decorated with figs burned by the sun, have become hospitality lodgings, all thanks to a network placed together to save this jewel of the final abandonment.
FIVE STONE FINGERS, THE DEVIL’S HAND
Its charm is already in the name: Pentedattilo, from the Greek penta daktilos, which means five fingers. According to the legend, the five stone fingers are often named the Devil’s Hand because the rocks flow with blood. You will enjoy the scenery, but once you set foot on one of the cobblestone alleyways and find yourself surrounded by empty houses nestled between sandstone rock and lush vegetation, you might overwhelmed by the sense of mystery that permeates this place. Pentedattilo is a tiny ghost town. Abandoned since the nineteenth century, yet it still retains its magic.
A TINY GHOST TOWN WITH A LONG HISTORY
But what is most striking is the quantity of prickly pears and unusual rocks that stick out everywhere and include some houses. While it is uninhabited today, Pentedattilo has a long history, in fact ithas Greek origins not only in its name. Founded in 640 BC, it had been a Calcidese colony, then a Fort controlling access to the upper part of Aspromonte. From 1660, it became part of a noble family estate. During the years, its property was transferred from a family to another as part of trades or legacies.
THE MASSACRE OF PENTEDATTILO
It was Easter in the year 1686. The Baron Bernardino Abenavoli had his heart set on marrying Antonietta Alberti, who had been born into the family of his archenemy. Not only was he in love with her, but a union between them might have helped heal the feud. Her father, the family’s patriarch, the Marquis Domenico Alberti, had recently died and her brother Lorenzo had just married Caterina Cortez, daughter of the Viceroy of Naples. This marriage brought Antonietta in contact with the son of the Viceroy, Don Petrillo Cortez, who also fell in love with her, asking her hand in marriage. Lorenzo, the new marquis, granted permission, much to the fury and indignation of the Baron Abenavoli.
The story reaches back many centuries in time. It has become a legend and is recounted with variations, but the thrust is roughly the same. The tale tells of two noble families. The Alberti family were marquises of Pentedattilo and residents of the local castle, while the Abenavoli family were barons of the nearby town of Montebello Ionico. As often seems to be the case with neighboring landowners, they didn’t get along and harbored a longstanding dispute with regard to property borders. Romantic interest pushed the conflict way over the edge.
Basta! (Enough is enough.) The baron snapped, and on Easter night, the 16th of April in 1686, he and his group of armed men, entered the castle with the help of Giuseppe Scrufari, servant and traitor to the Alberti family. The slaughter began with the Marquis Lorenzo Alberti, who is said to have been shot with a harquebus (predecessor to the musket), which either didn’t do the job or the multiple stabbings that followed were posthumously inflicted out of sheer rage.
Baron Abenavoli and company didn’t stop there, however. They weren’t satisfied until almost the entire enemy household was killed, including a 9-year-old younger brother. The heinous incident is known as the Strage degli Alberti or the Slaughter of the Albertis.
FLIGHT FROM PENTEDATTILO
The baron spared the object of his desire, Antonietta Alberti, and married her a few days later. Her recently intended, Don Petrillo Cortez was taken in hostage, most likely in fear of his father, the Viceroy. Abenavoli holed up with his captives in his castle at Montebello Ionico until forced to flee when the Viceroy sent down a military convoy from Naples. Many of his cohorts were captured and executed, but the slippery baron managed to escape, running off first to Malta and then Vienna.
He left Antonietta behind in a convent. She eventually had her marriage annulled and lived out the rest of her time, what must have been quite haunted, in a nunnery in Reggio Calabria. The baron carried on a new life for a while as an officer in the Austrian army, and finally died in battle.
1) How to get there? BY PLANE
Calabrian airports connect directly with the largest Italian cities and offer the best services. The airports in the region are: Lamezia Terme Airport, Crotone Airport and Reggio Calabria Airport.
2) How to get there? BY TRAIN
The railway infrastructure in Calabria reaches about 850 km of lines, with 115 stations. The main network consists of Tirrenica (Rome – Napoli) – Praia – Paola – Lamezia Terme – Reggio Calabria, which connects the most important places of the Calabrian coast, between them and the main cities of Campania and central Italy; is a functional connection between the Sicilian railway network and the rest of the national system, mainly through the maritime connection of Villa San Giovanni to Messina.
3) How to get there? BY CAR
It is possible to reach Calabria by car from any part of Italy, by the highway network and, specifically, by the A3 Salerno – Reggio Calabria that end in Calabria.
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