Selvaggia sommità di pietra spuntano nell'aria,
In forma di una mano gigantesca.
Nelle spaccature e crepacci di questa piramide
le case sono incuneate dentro.
Tenebre e terrore
covano sopra l'abisso attorno ad esso.
La più strana abitazione umana.
Edward Lear, Diario di un viaggio a piedi, 1847
IT has been more than a century and a half since the Calabrian tour of the famous English writer and illustrator Edward Lear, and it is still undeniable the evocative power that Pentedattilo arouses in the visitors who increasingly choose the majestic landscapes of Calabria as a destination for their journey.
As Lear himself said, these landscapes are of great pictorial and poetic interest and the name Calabria is quite poetic itself. This is also the reason why we strongly insist, now more than ever, on the need to preserve these places in their landscape entirety, in their natural and historical peculiarity, activating innovative cultural activities so to enhance their inherent vocation. Today, the ancient village of Pentedattilo is Calabria’s touristic and cultural icon, and in recent years it has become, for the intense restoration and cultural promotion activities, a "case study" which made it a privileged destination for a diversified touristic flow. Pentedattilo Film Festival plays a part in giving back to these places its fascinating peculiarity, promoting an active and sustainable artistic restoration.
The village was founded as a colony of the Greek city of Chalcis in 640 BC and it was a thriving economic centre during all the Greek-Roman period; during the Roman domination it also became an important military centre for its strategic position on Fiumara Sant’Elia, a privileged way to reach Aspromonte. During the Byzantine domination a long period of decadence began, caused by ceaseless plunders which affected the country by the Saracens, first, and later also by the Duke of Calabria.
In the twelfth century Pentedattilo was conquered by the Normans and, together with the villages of Capo d'Armi, Condofuri and Montebello Ionico, it was transformed into a barony entrusted to the Abenavoli’s family by King Ruggero d’Altavilla. Over the time the feudal hegemony of the Abenavoli’s family grew narrow and the administration of the land passed to the noble Francoperta’s family from Reggio; in 1589, because of debts and problems of illegitimacy, the fiefdom was seized from Giovanni Francoperta and sold at auction by the Sacred Royal Council for 15,180 ducats to the Alberti’a family along with the title of Marquis.
The domination of the Alberti’s family, despite the tragic events related to the so-called "Strage degli Alberti" (the massacre of the Alberti’s family), lasted until 1760 when the estate was sold to the Clementi’s family, formerly marquises of San Luca, and then to the Ramirez’s family in 1823. In 1783 Pentedattilo was severely damaged by a devastating earthquake which provoked a steady migration towards Melito Porto Salvo which lasted until the Risorgimento period. Because of this depopulation in 1811 the municipality was transferred to Melito Porto Salvo and Pentedattillo became a hamlet. In the mid-60s the village was completely abandoned after an immediate mandatory evacuation considered indispensable and urgent. That ordinance forced all the residents to move about a kilometre downstream and build new houses, leaving everything they had in the old village. An ordinance due to the alleged dangerousness of the rock. For 30 years Pentedattilo has been a ghost town and has attracted several artists who have chosen it as a place for their inspiration. In the early '90s Pentedattilo was rediscovered by young people and associations. Thus began a slow but steady path to restoration thanks to volunteers coming from all over Europe. Nowadays it is an artistic and cultural centre of excellence.
THE MASSACRE OF THE ALBERTI’S FAMILY
Easter Night 1686...
Some people say that among the ruins of the old castle at night, you can still feel the hooves of the horses silently approaching from Montebello towards Pentedattilo. Someone else says that when the wind blows violently through the gorges of the rock you can still hear the screams of the Marquis Lorenzo Alberti. What is certain is that the story of the massacre of Pentedattilo is still a mystery who wants to be told.
In the second half of the seventeenth century the village of Pentedattilo was the scene of a cruel crime known as the Massacre of the Alberti’s family. The protagonists of this story were members of two noble families, the Alberti, marquises of Pentedattilo, and the Abenavoli, barons of Montebello Ionico and former feudal lords of Pentedattilo.
There had been a burning rivalry between the two families for a long time because of some issues relating to common borders, but around 1680 the tensions between the two families seemed to be waning because of the pressures of the Viceroy, who intended to pacify the area, and also because the father of the Abenavoli’s family, Baron Bernardino, planned to take Antoinette, Marquis Domenico Alberti’s daughter, as his wife. In 1685 Marquis Domenico died and his son Lorenzo succeeded. Some months after his father's death he married Caterina Cortez, daughter of the Viceroy of Naples.
On the occasion of the wedding a long and sumptuous procession came from Naples to Calabria; it included, apart from the bride, the Viceroy with his wife and his son Don Petrillo Cortez. At that time Don Petrillo had the occasion to know Antonietta and since he remained with his mother in Pentedattilo after the wedding because of a sudden illness, he had the opportunity to often see her and fall in love with her. He then asked Lorenzo to marry Antonietta and Marquis Alberti agreed to her sister's wedding. The news of the official engagement between Don Petrillo Cortez and Antonietta Alberti sent Baron Bernardino Abenavoli on a rage; being hurt in his feelings and pride, he decided to take revenge on the whole Alberti’s family.
On the night of the 16th of April 1686, Bernardino, thanks to the betrayal of Giuseppe Scrufari, unfaithful servant of the Alberti’s family, got into the castle of Pentedattilo with a group of armed men. He reached Lorenzo’s bedroom, surprised him while he was sleeping, took two shoots at him with an harquebus and finished him off with 14 stabs. Together with his men he assaulted the various rooms of the castle, killing most of the its occupants including Simone Alberti, Lorenzo’s brother, who was 9 years old, hitting him mortally against a rock. Caterina Cortez, Antonietta Alberti, her little sister Teodora, her mother Donna Giovanna and Don Petrillo Cortez were spared from this massacre. Don Petrillo was taken hostage as a guarantee against possible retaliations of the Viceroy towards the Abenavoli. After the massacre Bernardino dragged into his castle in Montebello Ionico the hostage Don Petrillo Cortez and his beloved Antonietta, whom he married in the church of San Nicola on the 19th of April 1686.
In a few days the news of the massacre came to the Governor of Reggio, and then to the Viceroy Cortez who sent a proper military expedition. The army landed in Calabria and attacked the Abenavoli’s Castle. They set the son of the Viceroy free and captured seven of the perpetrators of the massacre (including Scrufari). Their heads were cut off and hung to the battlements of Pentedattilo’s castle. Baron Abenavoli, thanks to various contrivances and aids, managed to escape from the troops of the Viceroy along with Antonietta. After entrusting his wife to a convent, he first fled to Malta and then to Vienna where he joined the Austrian army. After being appointed captain, he was killed by a cannonball during a naval battle on the 21th of August 1692. Antonietta Alberti, whose marriage with Bernardino was annulled by the sacred Rota in 1690 because it was contracted under duress, ended her days in the cloister of Reggio Calabria, consumed by the pain and anguish of being the unintended cause of her family’s massacre.
The story of the Massacre of the Alberti’s family originated many legends and rumours over the centuries. One of those legends says that one day the huge hand will come down on men to punish them for their thirst for blood. Another one says that the stone towers dominating the village are the bloody fingers of the hand of Baron Abenavoli.
Vivo in una terra di bava.
Le lumache, quando strisciano. Bava.
Aderiscono alle pietre, senza ferirsi. Bava.
Salgono su per la rocca, dentro le case, si riscaldano ai fornelli. Bava.
Conosco un pastore che mi racconta sempre di alberi che non danno più frutta, e di mandrie che vanno portate sempre più lontane.
Fra qualche giorno tornerà dal suo ennesimo viaggio, e tornando verso il paese respirerà il sapore della zuppa di sua moglie, si incanterà di fronte alle finestre incastonate alla rocca.
Gli sembrerà di essere in paradiso e avvicinandosi, gioirà di quel silenzio che è tipico di chi vive scavando nel terriccio.
Ma più si avvicinerà, più sentirà un vuoto che si apre di fronte ai suoi occhi, che invade il suo corpo.
Comincerà a intendere che quel paese, muto così non lo era mai stato. Inizierà a correre, scendendo la scarpata come folle, arriverà alle mura del castello, 300 porte spalancate, i soldati come carne da macello.
Entrerà dentro e vedrà gente per le strade, viso immobile, topi che entrano nello stomaco.
Camminerà, come sopravvissuto, cercando la sua casa. Vedrà il legno della porta divelto, darà uno sguardo dentro e, facendo scendere sul suo volto una lacrima leggera, comincerà a cantare:
"Annetta fui dalla rocca prestu chi chiovi, fui dalla rocca cu ventu ti porta, esti lu ventu chi veni i luntanu,fanni curuna e sciatu di sciuri."
Il tempo che passa. Bava.
L’amore forte come la morte, e la passione come l’inferno. Bava.
Fantasmi persi fra le dita della rocca. Bava.
Noi, bava, che in questa terra saremo sempre eterni viandanti.
La Tragedia degli Alberti, dite il suo nome, da uno spettacolo di Officine Arti