I’ve been very bad lately. Only a couple of posts in October. The spookiest thing of this year’s Halloween is that I have got the flu and a terrifying deadline on Tuesday… But hey, the sky is grey, it’s pouring, I have orange candles all over the house and a hot cup of tea… it’s time for some Halloween indulgence.
I also need to keep up with the precedent I set last year with these spooky Tuscany stories for Halloween… so here we go…
We are spending Halloween and All Saints’ Day in Pisa this year. So I guess the best I can do is to tell you about the ghosts in Pisa… (are you scared yet?!).
Apparently, Pisa is a very haunted city. Some people say that every once in a while, at the National Archive on the Lungarno, the noise of a horse galloping up the stairs is heard. It is said to be the ghost of Lord Byron, who lived in this building in 1820-1821 (Pisa was very popular with English poets in the 19th century). The legend says that he would climb the stairs riding his horse and that he spent hours writing in the dark underground rooms. The building is Palazzo Toscanelli, a white building with a 16th century façade ascribed to Michelangelo himself.
Another spooky place in Pisa is the quarter of San Francesco, and most precisely the area around the old church of Sant’Andrea, now a theatre. Over the years, several people have reported having seen, late at night, a man in medieval clothes, wandering around in the dark and narrow alleys of the area and finally disappearing inside the church through the closed door. This spooky presence is believed to be Pietro della Vigna‘s ghost, a diplomat, jurist and poet who lived here in the 12th century and committed suicide in the church after he failed defending his master from accusations of heresy.
You can read about more ghost stories in the Quarter of San Francesco.
The library of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Piazza dei Cavalieri is also known for being a spooky place. In the 80’s some students reported hearing constant crying coming through a wall. The mystery has never been solved, but people believe that was the cry of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca‘s children. Once Pisa’s Podestà, he was imprisoned in the Gualandi Tower by the Archbishop after being accused of treachery. The latter is said to have thrown the keys to the prison into the river Arno, and left the prisoners to starve. Dante tells the terrible story of Count Ugolino in his Divine Comedy: driven insane with starvation, he is said to have dined upon his children’s flesh. When their bodies were found, they were buried in the Church of San Francesco, and moved to the Gherardeschi family chapel only at the beginning of last century.
The Count himself apparently likes to come back to Pisa every once in a while… at the beginning of the last century, two women were almost scared to death by a ghostly encounter with the Count on the Lungarno. They said they saw a man in torn clothes, with evil eyes, pulling at his hair at the entrance to the garden of what is today the beautiful building housing the “Fiumi e Fossi” offices. That is the only garden opening onto the Lungarno and on those grounds once stood the tower house of Count Ugolino. The house was destroyed after his imprisonment and the ground was cursed, so that over the centuries nobody has ever had the guts to build there again. The two ladies reported that the ghost was very displeased to see his house had been destroyed.
For more spooky places to see in the city, check our guide to Pisa.