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The legend of the haunted house known as Villa Clara

4 min read

Each place has a more or less known heritage of curious stories, legends and mysteries, and Bologna, Italy, is no exception. Among these, the presumably haunted house in Casalecchio di Reno, and Villa Clara.
The villa a little outside Bologna, not far from Trebbo di Reno, is located in the open countryside, surrounded by fields where are not even street lighting and where, sometimes, thick banks of fog arise. The exact date of its construction is not known, although it is likely that it took place between 1572 and 1585. To say so is the coat of arms of Pope Gregory XIII, which stands on the top of the fireplace in the main room. It was in fact customary, in those days, to refer the construction period of a building belonging to a noble family to the reigning Pontiff in those years.

The villa was originally known as “Casino del Trebbo” and then as “Villa Malvasia“.
Historically, Carlo Cesare Malvasia, a historiographer and writer who lived between 1616 and 1693, spent the summer in this country villa.
Surrounded by imposing walls, the house belonged to the Malvasia family until the second half of the nineteenth century.
The events of the villa during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are not known, but at the beginning of our century it belonged to the Knight Ferdinando Bonora, who brought about numerous improvements, and on whose death, which occurred in 1917, it was inherited by his daughter Zaida. Later sold, the villa passed into the hands of various speculators who jeopardized its conservation, using the entrance loggia as a garage for transport wagons that were entered by a false ramp.
It then underwent other changes of ownership and today it is known as Villa Clara.
But who was Clara?

Local elders have always said that the villa was inhabited by the noble Alessandri family (that’s true). Legend has that Clara was the young stepdaughter of one of the landlords, who discovered the girl flirting with a young servant. Feeling dishonored, Clara was forced to live forever within the walls, deprived of her freedom and, depending the version of the story you heard, she was walled up alive. As story goes, finding no peace due to the tragic sentence, the young Clara would have transformed into a spirit that still haunts the villa, which would take its name from the girl herself.
A classic ghost story … but not without contradictions. According to the story, Clara is a teenager who already thinks about love, while the ghost commonly identified is that of a little girl.

In another version of the story, in the early 1900s, the building housed a father, mother and a little girl named Clara, who apparently had psychic powers: she warned her parents of events that would happen in the future by guessing us. It is said that her father, exasperated and perhaps frightened by her powers, one night taken by a fit of madness, walled her up alive inside the house. Since then they have been saying that on certain nights the little girl can still be heard crying, singing, complaining or seeing her wandering around the garden.
In any case, between skeptics and superstitious people, over the years the villa has been a destination for curious and psychics who apparently have perceived obscure presences, or who have met the ghost in person. Some improvised explorers, almost always real inept of photography, in a delirium of psychosis managed to “see” the most absurd entities where there were mold, reflections and other common elements in an abandoned house.

From the archives, however, it also emerged that Clara was the name of one of the last owners of the villa, a certain Mrs. Clara Mazzetti, who bought the property in 1928 and nothing in her life has ever led back to such stories.
The Alessandri property is also real: in 1954 the villa was in fact purchased by the father of the engineer Alessandro Alessandri. The latter, a deeply religious man and tormented by guilty feelings for a love of youth opposed by his family, inherits a large patrimony (127 properties) on the death of his parent, which, however, he cares very little during his life. Thus began the years of the decline of the building, complicated by the reputation of “cursed villa”. Until the last twist. In 2004, when the engineer passed away, the house was inherited by a certain Mrs. Maria Vittoria Bossi, who only discovered at the reading of the will that she was the daughter of Alessandri and his lost love. She will be the one to save Villa Malvasia. The legend has come to an end: now, for the curious, all that remains is to wait for the restoration and future opening of the Villa to the public. A dream, because the restoration work has apparently begun. However, as often happens, they stopped. And probably will never end….

Author’s note: Thanks Ivan (who visited the place before me) for the two photos of the interior and the additional information!

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