I tend to avoid the paranormal and I’m not fascinated by things that go bump in the night but there is one apparition that I get excited about and of course it has to do with Italy. But not just Italy, the Italy of my Italian friends in Gropparello. Gropparello is a comune in the Province of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, located about 130 km NW of Bologna . A few years ago I was on a road trip in search of some material for a chapter in my book on cooking in Emilia, (the legendary “breadbasket of Italy”) when I found myself at the door of a medievale taverna outside of town.
Little did I know the taverna was part of castle-fortress built by Charlemagne in the 8th century. Impressive and imposing, Castello di Gropparello was built from bare rock and overlooks a deep gorge (Gole di Vezzeno) and rock cliff with a view of a Celtic altar in the distance. Little did I know I would meet Rita who would become one of my dearest friends in Italy, a cooking companion, a source for one of my best selling olive oils and the current keeper of the castle. Rita Trecci Gibelli and her family have transformed the castle and surrounding wood into a site of gastronomic festivals and Italy’s first “emotional parc” Parco delle Fiabe (Park of the Fairies) where children and their families are guided through a medieval forest to discover the traces of fairies, gnomes, elves and witches, entering into a fairy-tale like experience that leaves Disney far behind.
And little did I know that although the fairies of the woods may be fiction within the castle itself lies a ghostly legend of “belief and disbelief with apparently inexplicable events that have occurred . . . trying to give rational explanations that there was and there could be the slow and gradual unfolding of this presence through clues, signs, posts more and more clear, clear, unambiguous, up to the revelation of something incredible”, la leggenda di Rosania Fulgosio.
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