I tend to avoid the paranormal and I’m not fascinated by things that go bump in the night but there is one apparition I get excited about and of course it has to do with Italy, in the Italy of my Italian friends at Castello Gropparello.
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 when I found myself at the door of a medivale tavern outside of the town of Gropparello. Gropparello is a commune in the province of Piacenza located about 130km northwest of Bologna. The taverna is part of an impressive and imposing castle-fortress built by Charlemagne in the 8th century. Built from bare rock the castle overlooks a deep gorge (Gole di Vezzeno) and a rock cliff with a view of a Celtic altar in the distance. It was here that I met Rita, one of my special friends in Italy, a cooking companion and current keeper of the castle. Rita and her family have transformed the castle and the surrounding wood into a site of gastronomic festivals, events and Italy’s first “emotional parc” (Parco dell Fiabe –Park of the Fairies), where children and their families are guided through a medieval forest to discover traces of fairies, gnomes, elves and witches entering into a fairy-tale like experience that leaves Disney far behind.
Although the fairies of the woods may be fiction within the castle is a ghostly legend of belief and disbelief with apparently inexplicable events that have occurred and were explained to me by Rita and her husband Gianfranco, who has seen the ghost, as follows “trying to give rational explanations that there was and there could be the slow and gradual unfolding of a presence through clues, signs, posts more and more clear, unambiguous up to the revelation of something incredible” . . . La Leggenda di Rosania Fulgosio.