This village is so feared some people refuse to even say its name...

The town itself. Photo by Mostracontadina.

The town itself. Photo by Mostracontadina.

High on a hill overlooking the valley of the river Sinni, in Southern Italy, sits the tiny town of Colobraro. With its olive groves, painted white houses topped with terracotta roofs, and a population of just 1,500, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is an unassuming place.

But it’s the rumoured victim of a curse, and feared so much by Italians it’s known as ‘the village without name’, or chillu paese – ‘that village’.

Saying the hamlet’s name is supposed to bring terrible luck, and residents of neighbouring villages go out of their way to avoid passing through Colobraro’s maze-like streets.

Even the police take people’s fears seriously. If you’re caught speeding through Colobraro, you won’t be fined by them, because they think they’ll fall victim to supernatural repercussions if they fine a resident of the town.

Men from other places also scratch their genitals when they hear any mention of Colobraro. It sounds bizarre, but in Southern Italy that’s supposed to ward off bad omens.

Devil horn signs are also made with the fingers to fight the ‘evil eye’, a hex caused by another person’s negative thoughts against you, supposed to be commonplace in Colobraro.

Ill feelings

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iStockphoto

But why is everybody so frightened of a seemingly innocuous town?

For starters, even its name evokes ill feelings.

Colobraro originates from ‘Coluber’ – which means serpent in Latin. Snakes are the embodiment of evil, responsible for the downfall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

But it was in the beginning years of the 20th century that Colobraro’s negative reputation began to spread.

It’s believed a great lawyer, called Biagio Virgilio, lived in the town. He’d never lost a case and he was big-headed because of this. Envied too.

One day in court, to stress his point, he animatedly pointed at a chandelier on the ceiling.

‘If what I say is false, may this chandelier come down,’ he yelled. And as soon as he said it, the chandelier crashed down onto the floor.

Everybody thought it was a jinx, and his name became synonymous with bad omens, as he was called ‘the unmentionable’.

When people went through Colobraro, they would link it with Virgilio, calling it ‘the town of the unmentionable’.

Anything negative that happened was soon tallied with the curse.

A witches’ lair?

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iStockphoto

A few years later, an anthropologist came to Colobraro with his research team. He wanted advice on how to remove an evil eye against him, and information on how to cast spells.

The man was told to see ‘La Cattre’, an old peasant woman with deep wrinkles.

But instead of getting the advice he needed, after visiting La Cattre he claimed he had been cursed by the woman.

The anthropologist and his research team had to flee the town after falling victim to freak accidents.

After that, rumours spread that the town was a witches’ lair, that they would gather there to concoct evil spells.

One of La Cattre’s descendents still lives in the town and is in charge of the tourist board there.

Elena di Napoli rubbishes these claims, saying La Cattre wasn’t a witch, ‘just an old peasant woman who may have looked like one’.

But others aren’t so sure.

Spooky things

iStockphoto

iStockphoto

Strange happenings in Colobraro have included freak landslides, a high number of car accidents and even newborn babies being born with two hearts or three lungs.

The population has even dropped dramatically in the years following the purported hex, from 5,000 to 1,500.

However, most people who live in the town don’t believe in the superstitions, and say they only affect visitors.

Elena says, ‘These spooky things only happen to people who come here for the first time in their lives and who believe in ill omen.’

And speaking to Andrea Di Consoli, an Italian writer who visited the town in 2007, Rocco Mango, a 75-year-old resident said, ‘there have never been witches here, not now not ever.’

Rocco also admitted sometimes the belief in the curse worked in his favour.

‘If I go to Matera (a nearby city) on some business…immediately I say in a high voice:  ‘I have to return to Colobraro, and it’s late!’ As soon as I say this, everybody treats me well, like a king.’

But others are so ashamed to say they’re from the place, that young people leave and won’t own up to their origins. One former resident told the Daily Mail he was known as ‘the ill-omen bringer’ among his colleagues. Some residents are upset by the superstitious for sullying the name of their town.

They believe people in other towns are envious of how beautiful Colobraro is, and that is why rumours have spread about it. It remained spared by Saracen pirate raids in the Middle Ages, so a lot of its rich history is intact. It’s also on top of the last hill before the sea, so has breathtaking, natural views.

Still, the town plays on its scary reputation for tourists.

Every summer there’s a festival called ‘Night Dream’, where performers tell tales of curses, sorcery and magic. Amulets are even sold at the entrance of the town to ward off evil spirits.

Yet whether the town is truly cursed or not remains up for debate.

One thing’s for certain though – it’s going to be known as ‘the village without name’ to superstitious Italians for years to come.

 

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