Strange things are known to happen in the rugged Garfagnana region of Tuscany, Italy. A friendly ghost in a monastery; a visit from a soldier from the other side; a village that sleeps for a hundred years; the legend of ghosts in the theater – all these of the mysterious and spectral phantoms make their appearance in The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany, a new book by Paul Salsini, the award-winning author of the popular six-volume “A Tuscan Series.”
After finishing the last volume of the popular series, readers might have felt a bit lost. For years, they had been immersed in the lives of characters Ezio and Donna, Paolo and Lucia, Dino and Sofia, as well as Father Lorenzo and Anna, the former nun. The author’s easy and engaging style instantly grabs the reader and his storylines consistently make for enjoyable page turners, equally suited for cold, stormy nights and hot summer days.
Readers now have a new book to look forward to; however, Mr. Salsini has left the popular characters from “A Tuscan Series” behind. He has continued to set his stories in Tuscany, the region of his roots, but for his latest book, has chosen the little-known area called the Garfagnana, a beautiful portion of the region’s northwest corner. As yet undiscovered by tourists, it is marked by high mountains, vast landscapes, rippling streams and tiny villages, some of which are abandoned. It is also within this area, located in the province of Lucca, where mysterious things have been known to occur. This is the place where a devil supposedly built a bridge in the Middle Ages – Ponte del Diavolo in Borgo a Mozzano. It is where a mountain is reported to house a witch’s coven, where strange voices can be heard in an underground cavern and where spirits still dwell in an underwater ghost village, long abandoned by its residents.
Mr. Salsini decided that the region was a perfect place for the setting of some supernatural stories and “The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany” is the fascinating and highly enjoyable result.
The stories are interconnected, but span centuries, from medieval times to the present. There is one about a young monk who was murdered by of all people, another monk. Even centuries after his demise, the unfortunate specter has not left the monastery. The book includes the eerie tale of a soldier who returns from “the other side,” as well as the story of the statue of a saint that refuses to remain in one position and can be observed to smile while his hands stretch out. The statue also appears to have the power to cure the sick.
The fifth story tells of a crystal ball that provides mysterious and cryptic messages that help to lead Italian partisans to a significant victory in World War II. In the sixth story, a village that has slept for one hundred years comes back to life with some amazing happenings.
The final story is about a young theater major who attempts to disprove the legend of ghosts in theaters. Everyone has heard of the caution “Break a leg” as sign of good luck, but what about the ghost lights that superstitious actors throughout the world place in the rear of stages? Or of the people who are certain that spirits inhabit certain well-known theaters? This story may shed some light on this phenomenon, but it also brings to mind many other questions.
The reader will quickly find that although the tales may be strange, they are not scary, but make for a thoroughly enjoyable read. Make sure to pick up the book before setting out on vacation. Whether lounging on the beach, at the lake, the mountains or just in your backyard, you will have a hauntingly good time. “The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany” is available on www.amazon.com.
About the Author
Paul Salsini is the son of Italian immigrants and is a veteran Milwaukee journalist, having been a reporter, state editor and staff development director at The Milwaukee Journal. He now teaches in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. He was the Wisconsin correspondent for The New York Times for 20 years and his travel essays have appeared in The Times and elsewhere. He received the 2011 Sons of Italy Leonardo da Vinci Award for Excellence in Literature. His other books include: “The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany,” “Sparrow’s Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany,” “Dino’s Story: A Novel of 1960s Tuscany,” “The Temptation of Father Lorenzo: Ten Stories of 1970s Tuscany,” “A Piazza for Sant’Antonio: Five Novellas of 1980s Tuscany” and “The Fearless Flag Thrower of Lucca: Nine Stories of 1990s Tuscany.” He and his wife, Barbara have three children and four grandchildren. They live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with their cat, Bella.