The legend of Azzurrina: the ghost of the famous little girl from Montebello

Perched on an imposing cliff overlooking the picturesque rural village of Borgo Montebello, in Poggio Torriana, Italy, and surrounded by breathtaking panoramas of natural beauty: the majestic and historic Castle of Montebello stands.

Once a fortress of the eminent noble Guidi di Bagno family, as well as of the Malatesta and Montefeltro families, the castle dates back to 1300 and was once a fearsome site, with sharp spikes on the walls and considered almost unassailable by enemies. This castle is however famous for a paranormal case involving alleged apparitions of the ghost of Azzurrina.
This legend has its roots in the tragic story of Guendalina Malatesta, more commonly known as Azzurrina, born in 1370.

Daughter of Ugolinuccio Malatesta, at the time of the feudal lord of Montebello. Gwendolyn had the misfortune of being born albino, and her pale blue eyes, light hair and alabaster skin were cause of fear among the other villagers, to the point that there were those who thought that in reality she was a witch. Her mother started to dye his hair so that it was more confusing, but the vegetable dyes ended up dyeing her hair blue, which eventually brought her the nickname “Azzurrina”.

According to the story, during the summer solstice, on June 21, 1375, Azzurrina was playing outside with a cloth ball, but the weather had become threatening and stormy and so she had decided to play inside. As always, she was escorted by her two huge bodyguards. It seems that the guards were not paying enough attention when Azzurrina’s ball bounced down a corridor and she followed her to see her roll in a secret passage in the tunnel beyond a slightly ajar trap door that led into the darkness under the stone floor.
The story goes that the two guards jumped hearing a sharp scream, after which they ran without finding any sign of Azzurrina or her ball. They carried out a great search, scrutinizing every inch of the castle and its land, but no trace of the girl was ever found, as if the castle had swallowed her up …

he following years there was a lot of rumors about what had happened to the girl, for example that her father had killed her because of her appearance to maintain her respect in the community … However, according to many reports, the girl never went away for real. .. and this is where the legend was born …

Five years later, during the summer solstice, a series of screams were heard through the halls of the castle, the source of which could not be identified, but which sounded like those of a little girl and the residents feared it might have been Azzurrina long since disappeared . Five years later it happened again and then again five years later, until the mysterious and disturbing cry of the ghost of Azzurrina became part of the castle itself, always happening on the same day every five years in the summer solstice, sometimes a scream , sometimes crying or laughing, but always very dismal. This apparently would have happened for centuries, but the outside world had little knowledge of the phenomenon until the castle, which today is known as Rocca dei Guidi di Bagno.

It wasn’t long before the word spread and the curious began to come to the castle not only to admire its architectural beauty and the splendor of the enchanting countryside that surrounds this small town, but also to hear, or perhaps see, the enigmatic ghost. of Azzurrina. There have also been paranormal researchers, who have often managed to record abnormal sounds. The story of Azzurrina has even been transformed into an Italian horror film by Giacomo Franciosa. The history of Azzurrina has now entered the local tradition of this place and has attracted the attention of a fair number of visitors and onlookers who want to see this ghostly girl who is said to have dressed those cold stone walls for centuries now …

But why was there so much talk? We learn the reason from a miscellany of stories from the lower Val Marecchia, the result of a seventeenth-century taste for popular fabulae. The pen of a 17th century story collector wrote:

“… he had sky-colored eyes and light hair with blue reflections …”

The diversity of the other is something that is not uncommon for man, today as in the past. The suspicion then, taken to the extreme, sometimes leads to believe in extreme remedies. Eliminating the different and with it what it represents can sometimes be seen as a solution.
It was then, to defend (or hide) the daughter that the parents dyed her hair, but the white of albinism does not retain the color, it reacts to the pigment becoming blue.
Taking up our seventeenth-century manuscript, we continue to read:

“… and it is said that, at the end of each luster’s summer solstice, a sound coming from that underground passage is still heard.”

In 1990, the Castle, open to the Museum for just one year. Then, on June 21 of that year, sound technicians interested in these episodes make the first recordings. The equipment is sophisticated. All frequencies are recorded. During the study, we listen: thunder, a violent roar of rain, then … a sound.
Year 1995. Also June 21st. New registrations. Same sound.
Luster year 2000. Still June 21st. Still the summer solstice and, again, that sound that repeats itself.
2005 … and the legend continues to amaze scholars and researchers, images are added in the following years and research continues …

According to the most widespread version, the legend of Azzurrina would have been handed down orally for three centuries, presumably being distorted, enlarged and embellished from time to time. Only around 1620 a parish priest of the area would put it in writing together with other legends and popular stories in a miscellany of stories from the lower Valmarecchia, and the first and only document written on Azzurrina would be called Mons belli et Deline (Montebello and Adelina).

According to the vulgar version of the legend, that is the version currently spread by the castle managers and the tour guides who work there, the real name of Azzurrina would have been Guendalina. According to the title of the document of the parish priest who would tell the legend, it is presumable that Azzurrina could be called Adelina (Deline), diminutive of the name Adele or Delia, widespread in the Middle Ages.

There are also other documents that generally refer to legends about the castle, such as the Memoirs on the Castle of Montebello di Romagna, written by Tommaso Molari (1875-1935) and published at the beginning of the 1900s. In them the Molari, referring to ancient tales folk of the village of Montebello, writes:

“Popular legend weaves around its world of spirits and goblins, so much so that, in the night, those who linger there, hear strange noises, thuds and frightful shrieks of souls asking for peace rising from the pitfalls.”


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