Monday, February 16, 2015

The Monster of Florence

Or perhaps I should have said monsters.  We'll get to that.

My posts for the past few weeks have been all about art and sunshine, great food and lovely views.   In contemplating what to write about this week, my mind harkened back to Caro's chilling accounts of all those super nasty murders in Scotland.  I thought I should try to keep up with her, to give the murderous writers and readers of this blog something to satisfy their yen for blood and mayhem.

I knew it would not easy.  My sense of Florence, from thirty years of traveling here, is that murders are few and far between.  A gander at the available statistics confirmed my assumptions.  Overall, Florence scores LOW on its incidence of all violent crime.  Its homicide rate is 1.1 per 100,000.  With a population of 370,000, that would amount to 4 murders per year, making Florence right up there (or should I say down there?) with the data Yrsa has reported here about Iceland--three murders, as I recall, per year out of a population of 330,000.

Despite the paucity of possibilities, I was determined to find some criminal tidbit I could offer, so I did what we all would do.  I googled "famous killers in Florence, Italy."  In .27 seconds, I was looking at the words "il Mostro di Firenze," and a selection of articles about a series of killings that took place between 1968 and 1985, not within the city itself, but in the hill villages that surround it.  A serial killer!  Pay dirt of the scariest kind!

I read a number of the articles and also talked to some Italian friends about their recollections of news stories that were broadcast as the murders were taking place.  No two accounts, oral or written, completely agreed.  No one seems at all sure that there was ever even a satisfactory explanation for what had happened. Here is what we know for sure.

Eight couples were murdered while making love in automobiles. Their dates and locations are as follows:

21 August 1868 - Antonio Lo Bianco, 29 and Barbara Locci, 32, in the town of Signa.

15 September 1974 - Pasquale Gentilcore, 19 and Stefania Pettini 18, in a country lane near Borgo San Lorenzo.

6 June 1981 - Giovanni Foggi, 30 and Carmela Di Nuccio, 21, near Scandicci.

23 October 1981 - Stefano Baldi, 26 and Susanna Cambi 24, in a park near Calenzano.

19 June 1982 - Paolo Mainardi, 22 and Antonella Migliorini, 20, on a country road in Montespertoli.

9 September 1983 - Wilhelm Friedrich Horst Meyer, 24 and Jens Uwe Rusch, 24, in the town of Galluzzo.

29 July 1984 - Claudio Stefanacci, 21 and Pia Gilda Rontini, 18, in a woodland area near Vicchio di Mugello.

7-8 September 1985 - Jean Michel Kravichvili 25, and Nadine Mauriot, 36, French tourists in a tent in a woodland area near San Casciano.

All but the German art students were working class people (or I suppose they could have paid for more comfortable accommodations other than their vehicles or a tent in the woods).  In several of the latter cases, the bodies of the female victims were mutilated after they were killed.

The whole truth is otherwise hard to come by.

Murder being so rare, and serial killing unknown in this area, the police were baffled.  Four local men, all elderly, were--one by one--charged and convicted. But each time the courts convicted and jailed one of them, the killings continued with the same gun and the same modus operandi as the former ones.  The police were ridiculed.

Eventually, a more widely accepted, theory was offered-- that four of the
men charged, Stefano Mele, Pietro Pacciani, Mario Vanni, and GianCarlo Lotti operated as a gang.  Some had died before the authorities accepted this explanation.  Others died in prison afterwards.

In the meticulously researched 1996 novel by English author Magdalen Nabb, and in the 2008 nonfiction book by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, both called The Monster of Florence, another theory was offered.  That the real monster was Antonio Vinci, whose uncle and father had both been major suspects.  Vinci has denied the allegation.

The story has had some play in popular culture. It has spawned three films and three books.  The case also inspired a subplot for the 2001 film Hannibal starring Anthony Hopkins, where a janitor in the Palazzo Vecchio--that building I see from my terrace--is portrayed as having committed il Mostro-like murders.

That's it folks.  If you want to read more about murder and mayhem around here, fiction is your only other hope.

A desk with a view

Annamaria - Monday


  1. I see, my love, you're preparing to return to your NYC state of mind...sans carsexus interrupters I hope.

    1. I am going back on Friday, Jeff. Don't forget your promise about dinner. I know you understand the mixed emotions about spending time in a place you love and then leaving it for the place you call home. On top of everything else, it is sunny and balmy here. I am going to hate being in the deep freeze!

  2. Anyone who's watched ANY slasher horror films KNOWS that one of the Prime Directives is to NEVER have sex in an automobile. Goes along with leaving the group by yourself, taking a shower, opening the door to see what that noise is, and acting in a slasher horror film...

    1. EvKa, I am not one for slasher movies, unless they were made by Alfred Hitchcock. I can tell you this: one of the Florentines told me that, decades after the il Mostro events, she instructed her teenage children to bring their lovers home, that they could close the doors to their rooms and no questions would be asked. The younger couples in this tragic story were engaged to be married within weeks or months. It breaks my heart!

  3. Fascinating and morbid reading. The serial killer personifies, as few others do, what we consider to be pure evil. No wonder why writers are inspired by cases like this. Factual incidents and characters lend credibility to the plot of a book and give it legitimacy. Such a tenuous dividing line between what has in fact happened and what might have happened, when novelists weave their way through the suspense-filled area between recognisable fiction and assumed reality, makes it less challenging to construct narratives in which readers can truly believe.

    1. Jorn, you are so right. Because I write historicals, I am very aware of how keeping the background factual supports the verisimilitude of the story. I don't think though that I could ever write about a serial killer. Not the kind like il Mostro or the Son of Sam in NYC. I have to try to understand my villains' motivations. I don't think I could ever bring myself to get into the mind of such a person. "Mostro" is the right word, as far as I am concerned.

  4. And EvKa, never walking through a graveyard at midnight without taking a large friend, a mobile phone, a machete or a pit bull fits the scenario also. Usually blonde, usually female. Usually with a short life span...
    But Annamarie, do you think that brutal crime hits harder in such a beautiful setting, and when it's such a rare event?

  5. Yes, it does Caro. When talking to my friends here about this, they were, even all these years later, horrified and even a bit ashamed that such a thing could have happened in their benign and gorgeous home.

  6. Such a beautiful place to hide the ugly side of humanity. Do they ever figure out why? A genetic aberration or some childhood trauma? Here in the U.S. they sometimes do it because they don't like the way someone drives their car. "Road rage" they call it.

  7. What an amazing view from the desk!! And what a bizarre story. I guess it proves that serial killers can pop up even in otherwise peaceful places. Also, like you, I need to get into my murderers' heads, and serial killers like Il Monstro are not my preferred visiting place...

  8. the killer is Antonio VINCI always free

  9. I like this a lot. Thank you for sharing. I'm always looking for upcycles like this. In the end, you don't know it was a shipping pallet to begin with!
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