We are in the South of Italy, exactly in Palermo, Sicily, and it’s 30 July 1789. Giovanna Bonanno, an elderly beggar known to all as “the Old of the vinegar”, is hanged in front of a large audience of noble, but especially curious. The accusation is of “witchcraft”, but the sentence says “poisoning”. In a short time everything is over, Giovanna Bonanno is dead and the streets of the city can return to their ordinary routine.
Who usually means esotericism, says that the soul of those who die following an unnatural death is reluctant to leave this world and so it goes from place to place in search of peace. So even the ghost of the “old of the vinegar”, it is said still today, continues to wander on certain nights for those neighborhoods and alleys of Palermo to which it seems to have remained fond of.
Now that you know the premise, what had happened exactly, and why did Giovanna is finished on the gallows?
To understand all the story, we must go back a few years, precisely to 1786. Giovanna (1713-1789) observes the scene that will change her life. A little girl, lies stunned and suffering in the arms of her mother. Accidentally, she ingested vinegar for lice and seems to be dying, but the seller give to her a certain amount of oil to make her vomit. The patient expelled all the poison and is safe, but Giovanna, intrigued, takes one of the many stray dogs that roam in his neighborhood and after ties him to a stake, makes him eat a piece of bread soaked in vinegar for lice. The following morning he finds the dead dog, controls his mouth and discovers that there are no particular traces of poisoning. Yes! She found the poison for the perfect murder, and thus began a prolific business for her, now able, for example, to resolve in a forced way some situations of conjugal unhappiness. Giovanna Bonanno starts selling a mixture of vinegar for lice, wine and arsenic, able to kill the victim in a short time and without leaving visible traces about the causes of death.
The first customer (and experiment) is Angela La Fata, that can’t wait to send her husband Giuseppe to the other world and marry her lover, Giuseppe Billotta. Giovanna Bonanno gives Angela a quantity of poison equal to the one that had killed the dog, but the concoction does not get the desired effect. Only in the following days, and different doses (sold in an anonymous ampoule) the poor Giuseppe is dead with atrocious suffering. And when the potion is ready for marketing, the second customer is Margherita, who does not want the poison for herself but for a friend, that want kill her husband, the baker Ferdinando. When Giovanna Bonanno cash the money of the happy widow, says, referring to the dead: “Lu signuri ci pozza arrifriscari l’armicedda“
“God can refresh his soul”.
After the first two murders, the fame of the “old of the vinegar” grows, and also finds a business partner, who procure clients in exchange for the payment of an high percentage. Other people dies, and in total it seems that there are six victims, but this number it’s uncertain. One day, Giovanna Bonanno delivery to one of her business partners, a dose of poison, disinterested in who was the receivent. The victim was the son of an acquaintance of hers, who was desperately looking for revenge against his killer wife, who in the meantime hastened to marry her lover, and against the suppliers of the poison.
So was organized a trap: in October 1788 was asked Giovanna Bonanno a dose of poison to kill an acquaintance, but the person in question presented himself to the appointment with four witnesses, and the “Old of the vinegar” was arrested. The trial takes place in front of the Court of Palermo, and also her business partner ends up on the gallows, an accomplice who was dragged through the streets and forced to kiss the feet of the executioner and the gallows before being hanged in Piazza degli Ottangoli, today’s Piazza dei Quattro Canti. But you are sure, that she was really a serial killer? It was not she who killed the husbands of women but the wives themselves. Giovanna Bonanno was only an old, creative, beggar, that sold a solution based of vinegar for lice! 😉
Photos from the web // public demain