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The Shocking Story of an Italian Couple Who Had Their Baby Taken Away Because They Were Too Old

Are you ever too old to become a parent? Well, the Italian justice system seems to think so, and the tragic story of Gabriella and Luigi De Ambrosis, an elderly couple who had their natural daughter taken away and put up for adoption because they were deemed too old to take care of her is proof enough.

In 2009, 57-year-old Gabriella and 69-year-old Luigi, of Casale Monferrato, Italy, decided to have a baby, and traveled abroad to undergo an advanced in-vitro procedure. In May 2010, Gabriella gave birth to a healthy baby daughter, and the couple made national headlines. They became known as the “grandparent parents”, and faced discrimination from people deeming them too old to take care of a baby. The two recall that, while they were still in the hospital after their daughter’s birth, someone alerted child services about their age and their ability to properly tend to the infant.

Luckily for them, there was no Italian law that prevented people over a certain age from having and raising children, so they were able to take the baby home and live a normal life. However, the joy of parenthood was short-lived, as in 2011, just 15 months after their daughter was born, the De Ambrosis were accused of “abandonment” for leaving the baby unsupervised for only a few minutes. What followed was a nightmare that continues to this day.

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The Extraordinary Story of an Italian Peasant Who Taught Himself 100 Ancient Languages

86-year-old Riccardo Bertani is an exceptional man. Born to a family of farmers in Caprara, a small settlement in Reggio Emilia, Italy, he abandoned his study right after elementary school and dedicated his life to translating and documenting over 100 extinct and rare languages from all around the world.

“It was castrating, I quit,” Bertani says about his decision to leave school right after completing his elementary studies. “I was interested in other things, and I have to say that only one teacher understood my decision.” Claiming to be “allergic to math”, the young boy started working in the fields, like most of the men in his village, but soon realized he wasn’t much of a farmer, either. That’s when he started focusing more on the things he was most passionate about, reading and learning languages.

Since Riccardo’s father was a member of the Communist party and former mayor of the village, most of the books in his house growing up were Russian tomes. Even though he didn’t understand the language, he was fascinated by them. He started looking up authors like Lev Tolstoy, reading their works in Italian, and then using a Russian grammar book to learn the original language they had been written in. For some reason, he was attracted to Eastern countries like Russia and the Ukraine and for the next 18 years he did nothing but translate whatever books he could find from those countries. And after diving deeper into their culture, he discovered all these different Siberian people, Mongolians, Eskimos, and developed a taste for rare and extinct languages.

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The Hide-and-Seek World Championship is an Actual Event

The game of hide-and-seek may not yet be an Olympic sport – although efforts are being made in that regard – but it’s apparently popular enough to have its own world championship.

What started out as a fun one-time event thought up by small Italian publication CTRL Magazine, in 2010, eventually turned into an annual event that grew with every edition. This year, the 6th Nascodino World Championship – “nascondino” is Italian for hide-and-seek – will take place on the the 3rd and 4th of September, in the beautiful village of Consonno, once a bustling tourist attraction complete with its own zoo, sightseeing train and several eclectic buildings. It has since become a ghost town, but event organizers consider the settlement perfect for a grand hide-and-seek competition.

The rules of the tournament are a bit more complex than the childhood game we all used to play growing up, but then again, this is a contest for grownups (18-year-olds and above). Participants may register to take part in the World Nascondino Championship in teams of five, after paying a €125 fee per team. The teams are then divided into four groups and one person per group hides while a “neutral searching team” counts 60 seconds. The hidden player then has 10 minutes to come out of their hiding spot and reach a soft mattress (for diving purposes) placed in the middle of a field without being found or at least before a member of the searching team. If they fail to reach their target within the time limit, players are not awarded any points. The game goes on for two days until the ultimate winner is declared.

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Italian High-School Students Create Vending Machine That Turns Plastic Trash into Phone Cases

A group of high-school students from Italy have invented an awesome vending machine that grinds used plastic bottles into pellets which are then turned into smartphone cases by a built-in 3D printer.

Saving the planet, making the world cleaner for future generations or just doing the right thing are powerful arguments for recycling, but the truth is some people require more materialistic incentives to actually give a damn about the environment. It’s a sad reality, but a group of kids have come up with an ingenious invention that may just get more young people involved in waste recycling – a vending machine that eats up plastic trash and turns it into stylish cases for a variety of popular smartphone models.

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Spanish Doctor Gone Missing 20 Years Ago Is Found Living Deep in Italian Forest

A Spanish doctor who went missing 20 years ago and was declared dead by authorities 14 years later, after nothing was seen or heard of him, was recently found living deep in a forest in Tuscany, by a couple of villagers foraging for mushrooms.

Carlos Sánchez Ortiz de Salazar, who should now be 47-years-old, disappeared from his home in Seville, Spain, in 1996, after falling into a deep depression. His family spent years looking for him, but after being unable to find any kind of clues to what had happened, they eventually gave up, and Spanish authorities declared him dead in 2010. However, two weeks, ago, a man claiming to be Sánchez Ortiz de Salazar was found living in a forest outside Scalino, a town in Tuscany, by two local mushroom pickers.

The two foragers had gone into the forest hoping to find some mushrooms after a weekend of heavy rainfall, but after having little luck, they decided to stray off the beaten path in order to change their fortune. But instead of mushrooms, they discovered a trail of plastic bottles and water canisters which eventually led them to the camp of a man who they say had “a dirty face and large beard”.

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Nemo’s Garden – Italy’s Revolutionary Underwater Fruit and Vegetable Farm

In a bid to explore alternative methods of growing produce, an Italian company has created the world’s first underwater farm. The futuristic station – aptly named Nemo’s Garden – consists of five transparent biospheres anchored to the bottom of the sea off the coast of Savona, Italy. They’re being used to grow strawberries, basil, beans, garlic, and lettuce.

“The main target of this project is to create alternative sources of plant production in areas where environmental conditions make it difficult to grow crops through conventional farming, including lack of fresh water, fertile soils, and extreme temperature changes,” said project spokesperson Luca Gamberini. “We are trying to find an alternative and economically viable technology enabling efficient production.”

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Italian Village Plagued by Mysterious Fires Has Been Puzzling Scientists for Years

For 10 years, the residents of the Sicilian village of Canneto di Caronia have been utterly spooked by hundreds of mysterious, unexplained fires that seem to erupt out of nowhere. The bizarre phenomenon, which has seen a sudden surge this year, includes spontaneous combustion of mattresses, beds, cars, and devices like fridges and mobile phones, even when switched off.

The episodes have attracted the attention of geologists, physicists and volcanologists for several years, but no one has been able to provide an accurate scientific explanation so far. Naturally, the villagers are blaming supernatural entities like UFOs, poltergeists, or other demonic forces. And with no other logical reason in sight, one tends to wonder if they actually might be right.

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The Double Tree of Casorzo – A Tree Growing on Top of Another Tree

Located between the towns of Grana and Casorzo in Piemonte, Italy, is a very unique tree – well, they’re actually two trees, one growing on top of the other. Locally known as ‘Bialbero de Casorzo’ or the ‘double tree of Casorzo’, this natural oddity consists of a cherry tree growing on top of a mulberry tree.

No one really knows how the cherry tree managed to take root and survive in such a bizarre position. Locals believe that a bird might have dropped a cherry seed on top of the mulberry tree, which then grew its roots through the hollow trunk to reach the soil below.

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Solo Per Due – World’s Smallest Restaurant Only Seats Two People at a Time

If you’re searching for the most private restaurant dining experience possible, look no further than Solo Per Due, a small ristorante in Vacone, Italy, that only features one table and two chairs.

Aptly named “Solo Per Due”, Italian for “just for two”, the world’s smallest restaurant only accepts two people at a time. This unique feature makes the Italian restaurant a popular destination for tourists from all over the world, but especially for lovers. There are no queues, no turns and no waiting, but booking this place for a romantic dinner, especially on holidays like Valentine’s Day can be a real challenge. Only around 1,500 people get a chance to enjoy the unparalleled privacy Solo Per Due has to offer, and it’s this exclusivity that best explains the set price of €250 ($335) per person (not including wine and champagne). The idea behind this unique eatery is that guests enjoy true intimacy and get the full attention of the cooking and waiting staff, which guarantees an extra special dining experience.

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Scala di Santa Maria del Monte – Probably the World’s Most Beautifully Decorated Staircase

Located in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, La Scala di Santa Maria del Monte is an old 142-step staircase, each of which are decorated with a different ceramic pattern. It’s a wonder to behold, but during the Spring and Summer seasons it becomes even more breathtaking as locals adorn it with potted flowers and lanterns, creating intricate designs.

Situated 68 kilometers from Catania, the town of Caltagirone has long been famous for its production of pottery. The name of this charming settlement derives from the Arabic qal’at-al-jarar” (“Castle of [pottery] jars”) and befits its longstanding pottery-making tradition perfectly. The talent of local craftsmen can be admired everywhere in Caltagirone, as everything from the palaces, churches and monuments to the gardens and squares of this place are covered in beautiful ceramics. But it’s the splendid Scala di Santa maria del Monte, a 142-step staircase dating back to 1608 that really stands as a testament to the town’s millennial tradition of pottery making. This breathtaking work of art that connects the high part of Caltagirone to the low part, is completely covered in ceramic tiles, with each of its steps featuring a different design inspired by local culture. The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is the main attraction of the Sicilian town, and it’s here that locals celebrate their most important festivals, La Scala Infiorata and La Luminaria, during which they use the staircase as a canvas for floral and light masterpieces.

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Physical Deformities in the Name of Tradition – The Cullatori of Nola

La Festa dei Gigli, or The Festival of Lilies, is held every year in the Italian town of Nola. In celebration of St. Paulinus, who in 410 AD saved his people from the invading Visigoths, local man carry heavy wooden obelisks on their shoulders through the streets of Nola, which in time causes them to develop giant calluses.

Artistic photos of men sporting different-size growths on the back of their necks and shoulders have been making the rounds online for a few days now. It turns out they are the works of Italian photographer Antonio Busiello, who recently won first prize at The Royal Photographic Society’s International Print Exhibition. The men in his photos are known as “cullatori” or cradle rockers, and they are responsible with carrying large wooden obelisks on their shoulders during the annual Festa dei Gigli, in Nola, southern Italy. These decorative structures are 25-meters high and weigh around 2,500 kilograms. The cullatori carry them through the narrow streets of Nola for a day and a night without stopping, which leaves them with huge calluses on their backs and shoulders. But the most fascinating thing about these keepers of an ancient tradition is that instead of hiding their physical deformities, they display them with pride as symbols of their sacrifice and devotion to Saint Paulinus, who once gave up himself and all his possessions to save the citizens of Nola during the Visigoth invasion.

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Dog Attends Daily Mass at Church Where Dead Owner Used to Go

Ciccio, a 12-year-old German shepherd, whose owner passed away two months ago, visits the church she used to frequent and where her funeral was celebrated, patiently waiting for her to return.

The people attending the church of Santa Maria Assunta in San Donaci, Italy have received a lesson in love and loyalty from a dog that for the past two months has been coming in for the daily mass, hoping his beloved owner would return. Local Maria Margherita Lochi, 57, had adopted Ciccio years ago, after she found him abandoned in the fields near her home. She was an animal lover who had taken in several stray cats and dogs, but her connection with Ciccio was special. Apparently he felt the same way, as even though Maria died two months ago, the dog keeps coming back to the place he last saw her. She would walk with him to the church, for the daily Mass, and the priest would allow him to wait patiently at her feet. He was even there with Maria’s loved ones at her funeral. But Ciccio seems to have a tough time letting go, and he comes back into the church each day, as soon as he hears the bells calling in the faithful for the Holy Mass. He just sits by the side of the altar, quietly, hoping Maria will come back…

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World’s Largest Vertical Garden Grows on Italian Shopping Center

A shopping center in the Italian town of Rozanno has recently claimed a rather unusual Guinness record, for the world’s biggest vertical garden. Growing on the walls of the commercial complex, the unique garden covers an area of 1,263 square meters and is made up of about 44,000 plants.

Just o be clear, the thousands of plants covering the sides of Rozanno’s shopping center were not planted in the ground next to the building and simply grew to cover the walls, they actually grow on the building itself. Italian architect Francisco Bollani, who was in charge of the project, says it took his team a whole year just to grow all the 44,000 plants, and another 90 days to place them on the walls of the commercial building. Although it might seem like the walls are covered with soil from which the flora grows, the walls were actually lined with metallic containers that hold the plants. Using these Lego-like metal pieces made the vertical garden a lot easier to build then with classic methods, but it also increased the cost of the project to a total of €1 million ($1.3 million).

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Poveglia – The Venetian Island of the Dead

When I first saw a picture of Poveglia Island, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty it is. But then I read the story behind the place and let me tell you, there’s nothing pretty about it. For centuries, the island has attracted nothing but the worst fate, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering torturous deaths. Today the island may look uninhabited, but legend suggests otherwise…

Poveglia is located in northern Italy, in the Venetian Lagoons. It has no owners and entry to the place is strictly forbidden. The only time any visits are made is to harvest vineyards. Even fisherman won’t venture intot  the waters near the island, for fear of catching human bones in their nets. For a time, it was owned by the Italian state but was sold to a private buyer in the 1960s. The poor guy lived there for a short while, but abandoned the place after a short while. More recently, a family was known to have purchased Poveglia in an attempt to convert it into a holiday home, but again, they couldn’t spend more than one night there. Rumors say that their daughter’s face was split open and 14 stitches were needed to fix it.

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Viganella – The Italian Village that Built Its Own Sun

Viganella is a small village in Italy located right at the bottom of a deep valley, and surrounded by high mountains on all sides. This means that naturally, every year from mid-November to early February, the region has absolutely no sunlight. The return of the sun’s rays on the 2nd of February was celebrated with joy every single year for several centuries. That is, until December of 2006, when the problem was fixed forever.

Thanks to the brilliance of Giacomo Bonzani, an architect and sundial designer, there now resides on the slopes of a mountainside above Viganella, a giant mirror that reflects sunlight into the town square. A place that had not seen the sun’s rays during the winter since the beginning of time, was now suddenly bathed in its glorious light and warmth. The mirror is 40 square meters in size, 8 meters wide by 5 meters high and is located about 870 meters above the village. What’s more, it is actually controlled by a computer software that tracks the sun and tilts and turns the panels of the mirror so that the rays are always reflected downwards. It has actually become a tourist attraction of sorts, since its installation over 5 years ago.

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