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  • Salvatore Fuda

The castle in the woods and the dark legend of Baronessa Scoppa

In the heart of the Calabrian Serre, just over a thousand meters high, there is a mysterious place; some would say ghostly, if instead of being in the sunny heart of the Mediterranean we were in the misty moors of Scotland. But even here nature, when it wants, knows how to create Nordic and rarefied atmospheres and then the blurred boundary between truth and legend is filled with ghosts, one of which is that of Maria Enrichetta Scoppa, Baroness of Badolato, a rich landowner who really existed on horseback. between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Evoking it is what remains of the Castello della Lacina, a small and fascinating manor of sixteenth-century origins located in Chianu da Jannara, in the territory of Cardinale (Catanzaro). Given its elevated position, the castle was once visible from the Provincial road that from Brognaturo (Vibo Valentia) leads to Santa Caterina dello Jonio (Catanzaro) but today it is well hidden from view by the thick fir forests that surround it. The remains of the corner towers and perimeter walls of the castle persist, having been subjected in not too distant times to a real despoiling, as can be deduced from an image of the second post-war period with the castle still in fair condition.

The black legend

For over a century, a local legend has made Baroness Scoppa the protagonist of events worthy of the infamous Gilles de Rais. The "historical" Baroness, born in 1831 and died in 1910, is actually known in the news as a single woman of fervent religiosity who lived in the village of Sant'Andrea Apostolo dello Jonio (Catanzaro) where in 1897 she had the college and the church of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, supported several seminarians, bestowed gifts on poor girls, had the mother church and the aqueduct of Niforio restored and left the family palace as an inheritance to the Repairing Sisters of the Sacred Heart, with the commitment to found a Orphanage. However, the legend attributes a dark side to her that in the Lacina Castle, indicated as her summer residence, she would have found a brutal outlet. In fact, it is said that the noblewoman, although as a young woman she had taken a vow of virginity, secretly went in search of erotic experiences and that for the purpose she attracted young and handsome men from the surroundings to her castle among the woods with whom she consumed torrid carnal relationships. So far nothing striking, just a story of ordinary hypocrisy, if it were not that her occasional lovers apparently were promptly made to disappear in the quicksand present in the surrounding area, so that no trace of the woman's unspeakable habits remained. In fact, nearby there would be large swampy areas covered with dry rushes, called vizzichi or uocchie and mare in the local dialect because it was believed they were in communication with the Ionian Sea.

These dangerous tracts of land recur in the stories of farmers and woodcutters in the area, who report their presence in several points, including the plateau called "Chianu di la Lacina" where today the waters of the lake of the same name shine, located a few hundred meters from the Castle and obtained in the 1980s from the damming of the Alaco stream, a watercourse that descends from the mountains of Brognaturo (VV) to the valley, winding between boulders of granite rock and at times forming suggestive waterfalls.ù

It is said that once upon a time there were wheat crops in the area and therefore it was not uncommon for ox carts to pass by, some of which seem to have ended up sucked into these sneaky peat bogs.

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