As we already know, the Vercelli area, in northern Italy, is often the scene of mysterious abandoned places often surrounded by disturbing legends, such as those linked to the principality of Lucedio and the nearby abandoned Darola cemetery.
Not far away is Saletta di Costanzana, a small rural village very popular for its disturbing legends, stories that started by Giovan Battista Modena, a local historian, who in 1622 claimed to have found the bones of a gigantic body in the vicinity of the village. They would have testified that the place was already inhabited before the great flood (Genesis VI, 4).
The isolated position, since it was probably born as a grange, has developed numerous legends. The history of Saletta di Costanzana is not very well known, the first structures, no longer existing today, arose around the 11th century, but it is not excluded that the human presence was present even earlier, despite the non-healthiness of the area due to stagnant waters which were present there throughout the year.
The first documents that speak about the small village date back to the 12th century and are signed by Federico Barbarossa.
In the 14th century Saletta di Costanzana, previously held by the homonymous Saletta family, ceded the possession to a monastery and remained in the hands of the clergy until the 17th century, when it was acquired by the Marquis Mossi. The Marquis tried to transform this village into a very modern agricultural center, but the project did not come to life due to his premature death which contributed to the sale of Saletta by the heirs.
From the eighteenth century the dark period of Saletta begins, in which stories and legends mix and the chronicles leave room for imagination: from this moment the history is no longer reliable and the abandonment of Saletta is still today shrouded in mystery.
Saletta, today, is a small village almost totally uninhabited. There is a castle used as a shelter for agricultural tools, the church of San Bartolomeo with a small cemetery without flowers and, in a strangely secluded position, the small circular building that recalls a pagan temple.
All around are rice paddies. Only rice paddies.
An ideal setting for ghostly appearances and ancient curses. And the surroundings of Saletta are full of these stories, whispered from generation to generation. The elderly in the bars fill their old anecdotes with new details, between the afternoon boredom, a glass and another glass, while the youngs, on summer nights, take the mopeds and go to the the ancient temple, to show their courage.
The construction of the castle is credited at the end of the 13th century thanks to some documents that testify to its construction: it was the vital center of the village, it is located very close to the church and is surrounded by the ruins of the old houses. The structure has been extensively renovated and is now private property (and inhabited!).
When the church of San Bartolomeo was built is not known. It dates back to at least 1280, and today it is walled up. It was vandalized and impoverished of everything years ago, and it is linked to many pretty strong stories, thanks also to the presence, among the external ornaments of the church, of cow skulls that have made the imagination of so many run.
It seems that in the 1980s a sect had taken possession of the structure and that black masses were celebrated there in honor of Satan, with testimonies of every kind of satanic rituals, with lots of pentacles and skewered cats.
When the rumor spread over time, police checks began and the local press became very interested in what happened, so much so that they interviewed local people and gathered information on the rituals that were committed in the church itself.
The church, as it was once common, also has an outdoor area where a small cemetery was located. Gravestones can be saw with difficulty in the vegetation that has swallowed everything.
The temple, also called the tabernacle, was dedicated to Saint Sebastian and built in memory of two lovers who decided to commit suicide to live their love after death.
Try to imagine an almost full moon in a blue sky, a quiet evening in a frame of rice paddies and fog, in a disarming plain. In the distance you see two shadows that go hand in hand. They advance slowly, and their steps are wrapped in silence: they are the ghosts of two young lovers.
The story is this: she, when she was alive, was a pale and sifted young noblewoman, he a stable boy, probably sweaty and smelly, sons of two absolutely incompatible families. We are in the early nineteenth century, and such scandalous relationships were obviously not tolerated. So the two lovers decide to meet in secret, in a May night, behind the church, walking hand in hand through the fields, up to a clearing nearby. Nothing outrageous: just one last kiss before committing suicide together.
At that point, a few years later, a small temple was built by a prelate belonging to the family of the suicidal girl, because God, looking at this expanse of fields all the same, could have pity on the two unfortunates lovers.
Even today, it is said that the ghosts of the two lovers often wander around the temple…..
In the early 80s some minors had got into the habit of finding themselves in the dungeons of the temple to perform rituals that were officiated by a girl with red hair, who at the time was studying at the magistral schools and who, half naked, danced remembering the movements of a snake. She was the priestess and was called, within the group, “the pythoness”. The symbol of this bizarre sect was a four-pointed star, also found in other neighboring places and in different shapes and sizes.
To educate these adolescents on esoteric practice he would have been a rather extravangant priest from Vercelli.
One of those nights, disturbed by the police, called by farmers and intervened to verify what was happening there at dusk, the young adepts gave themselves to a escape, during which one of the girls had an accident. She died at hospital few time later and the news had wide resonance as her father publicly denounced the Order’s Forces, held responsible for her death.
According to another story, in the second half of the 19th century three children, sons of village workers, played in the fields. One of the three disappeared and the inhabitants were summoned to look for him, without any result. The next day the child’s body was found bled out impaled on a gate, and since then the other two children began to dream of the deceased comrade who invited them to play in the fields. A couple of years later, the second child also died, drowned in a canal, and the last survivor was found dead in mysterious circumstances shortly afterwards.
From this story should derive the ghosts who, on cold snowy nights, should take the road from the church to the cemetery, leaving their footprints on the ground.
According to another legend, a family went to Saletta for a trip outside the city. During the return journey the child begins to feel bad, and despite the care of her parents, in a couple of days she dies, in total despair of her family.
From that day, after the excruciating pain for the loss of her daughter, her parents began to record strange events in the house: in addition to strange noises, they began to hear complaints and voices.
One night the crying heard in the house became so clear that the parents ran into the room where the child slept, they found no one and the crying became even more intense.
There are different versions of this story: some say that the family decided to exhume the corpse which, obviously, was found lifeless but with the dress wet with tears, or that the specter of the child still haunts the road near Saletta and enjoys terrorizing motorists or, again, that in the farms near Saletta, a little girl never identified often enjoys playing in the middle of the night the doorbells. The inhabitants are sure that she is the little girl of this story.
There are still other stories, for example the white lady, white and transparent, which moves along the fields in the early morning of particular days of the year. Perceived as a positive and benevolent entity, she has always been mentioned as a reassuring figure for the peasants, able to protect the fields and the harvest, a legacy of an ancient pagan tradition.
Or the humble widowed peasant who told of a night when his young and dead wife visited him.
There is even the ghost of a horse would even exist, to which the noble owner was morbidly attached, to the point of not wanting to see it die following an accident that would have led him to certain death. She had him then closed inside a tower of her own castle, leaving him a modest amount of food and water, after which he would die far from her eyes. Needless to say, there are those who are ready to swear to hear neighs from the countryside!
The stories have invaded, on several occasions, even the columns of local newspapers: engines that turn off when you get close to the area, strange shapes in the fields, sudden flashes on the sides of the road. In 1980 an F-104 military plane lost control just as it was flying over the area of the temple, for reasons that were never completely clarified.
After all, Saletta is an unique place of its kind that has probably undergone extraordinary events. However, it remains a splendid oasis in the Vercelli countryside to visit if you pass by there.
Surely what is there is the silence of an ancient peasant world, which persists in reviving through its ghosts…