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Katy and Tiffany tell us stories from Italian folklore, and then suddenly realize they may have their own ghost stories to tell.

Episode Summary:

Katy Sewall and Tiffany Parks of the Bittersweet Life Podcast relay tales about the ghosts of Beatrice Cenci and Olimpia Maidalchini, who still wander the bridges in the city of Rome, Italy. However, these podcast hosts have additional, personal ghost stories from their original home town of Seattle, WA.

Every city has its ghosts. Whether you live in an ancient town filled with ruins from another era, or you wander streets built within your lifetime, you cannot escape the whispers of the dead, filling the cracks in the pavement and the spaces between the walls.

For Katy and Tiffany, who live on opposite sides of the world, this has become very apparent. When you hear their stories, you might begin to wonder what’s lurking in your favorite restaurant, on your favorite bridge, or in your own backyard.

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About the Guests, Katy Sewall and Tiffany Parks

Katy Sewall is an award-winning senior public radio producer and host, writer, and podcast consultant. Tiffany Parks is an authortravel writer, and tour guide. The two were childhood friends in Seattle, WA, and reconnected while living abroad in Rome, Italy. Together, they created and host The Bittersweet Life podcast, which they’ve kept alive for 10 years and counting. In their words, “What began as a podcast about what it means to live abroad has become a dynamic examination of what it means to live.”

Keep up with Katy, Tiffany, and The Bittersweet Life on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you’re not sure what episode to start with, episode 452 is the one where they interview us.

Katy Sewall (pointing at bird) and Tiffany Parks (laughing at bird) of The Bittersweet Life podcast

Episode Show Notes

Haunted Bridges are a Worldwide Trope

What is it about bridges that makes them so prone to hauntings? Becky posits it’s the liminal space between shores, plus the energy of the flowing water beneath. There are also old traditions involving human sacrifices to influence bridge fortunes. These are a subclass of construction sacrifices, a practice that used to be popular in many different cultures.

Photo of the Ponte Sant'Angelo, where, according to Italian folklore, the ghost of Beatrice appears on Sept. 11
Ponte Sant’Angelo at sunset. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

In some cases, construction sacrifices were committed to intentionally haunt new structures. This could be to ensure that the structure wouldn’t feel the need to take any more lives, as it was already appeased. Sacrificing an innocent spirit by tying it to a structure also served to repel evil spirits. In the South, we leave abandoned wasp nests up to prevent new wasps from building nests nearby. We think the practice of construction sacrifice proves that ghosts are as territorial as wasps.

Roman locations from these Italian Folklore stories

Here are some of the Italian locations Tiffany referenced, if you’d like to try to see if the folklore is true by doing your own ghost hunting.

Speaking of which…

Does that church really specialize in fishing bodies out of the Tiber river?

The Church of St. Mary of Prayer and Death has provided the poor with funerals, burial, and prayer for nearly 500 years. This also included unidentified bodies from the Tiber River. The church used to have tunnels connecting it to the river, where the bodies were stored and prepared for burial. At one point, the church contained the remains of over 8000 bodies. And of course, in old world Roman Catholic tradition, those bones make up some gorgeous décor within the church.

Escape Woods at Sleepy Hollow Farm

In case you happen to be in Atlanta, check out the farm Becky and Diana reference in this episode! Don’t fret that it’s after spooky season; they have creepy immersive escape room experiences all year. One of their escape rooms takes place in the actual cabin where scenes from Stranger Things were filmed.

Becky and Diana in a cornfield
Becky and Diana afraid in the corn maze

Are these Italian ghost folk stories true?

Tiffany says that these are documented, verified events that actually took place around Rome. Are these locations really haunted by these famous Italian ghosts? We can’t wait to visit and find out for ourselves! Let us know in the comments if you’ve been to any of these haunted places in Rome. And in the meantime, passa una giornata spaventosa!