Chinese imperial boat

The Chinese Imperial Boat Hidden in the Woods of the Cimini Mountains

Amidst the lush woods of Tuscia Viterbese, there is a place that has the power to transport the visitor to another space-time dimension. This is the Tenuta Sant'Egidio where the remains of the surprising Church of the Holy Trinity guard a precious Chinese Imperial marble boat.
Table of contents:
  1. Where the boat is located
  2. Love for China
  3. Extraordinary meeting
  4. The promise of conservation
  5. Brotherhood and respect between peoples

The Sant'Egidio Estate

La Tenuta Sant'Egidio is a private area of about 130 hectares on the north-eastern slope of Monte Cimino, which has become, by the owners' will, a educational forest. Walking through the woods of the estate you can admire monumental oak and beech trees, caves, springs and rocky outcrops. And then suddenly the remains of the walls of a church, the Holy Trinity, dating back to the 13th century and for centuries a hermitage of monks. Together with what remains of the ancient church a striking and alienating Chinese imperial boat in white marble. But how did this boat get here and why?

The Blessings and Love for China

The Chinese Imperial Boat came to Italy thanks to theItalian entrepreneur-philanthropist Eugenio Benedettifather of Azzurra Benedetti, the current president of the GEA Association from which the idea of the educational forest originated. Eugenio, nicknamed 'the new Marco Polo', was in love with the People's Republic of China and for many years travelled all over the country, contributing to its economic and cultural renaissance. One of his most famous operations was the opening of 34 marble quarries in the Hebei and Honan mountains, which are still operating today, from which he extracted one of the most beautiful marbles in the world. In 1965 Eugenio also had the opportunity to meet theLast Chinese Emperor Pu Yikey character in unravelling the mystery of the Viterbo imperial boat.

An extraordinary meeting

By now demoted to a simple citizen and appointed head of the Gardens of the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, Pu Yi commissioned Eugenio to save and restore the boat built in 1865 to mark the 60th birthday of Empress Ci Xi, his mother. The boat is still moored on the Kunming River at Peking Palace. In ancient China, boats were true masterpieces of craftsmanshipused to transport precious goods along the rivers and canals of the vast Chinese empire. The imperial boat was a symbol of respect, power and elegance.

Restoration and Conservation

The conservation operation succeeded and was greatly appreciated by the Chinese government; Eugenio received a gift for his 75th birthday as a thank you for his work, 100 tonnes of white marble composed of 3,000 hand-carved and chiselled pieces. The material was used for build a 1:3 scale replica of Empress Ci Xi's boatas a sign of love from China to Italy. The imperial boat was then placed inside the estate, where Eugenio expressed his wish to be buried when his time comes.

Symbol of brotherhood between peoples

Thus the mystery is explained. The Chinese imperial boat on the Tenuta Sant'Egidio is more than just a monument; it is a homage to brotherhood between different culturesa symbol of peace and cooperation between peoples. But, above all, it is a representation of the love of a son for his mother and of the interconnection between seemingly distant cultures. The marble imperial boat in the heart of Tuscia Viterbese is a precious testimony to historyan indelible memory of great modern characters. A historical memory to be preserved and handed down to future generations.

castle legends

Legends, Folklore and Magic of Torre Alfina Castle

Once upon a time there was a castle perched on a hilltop, with an enchanted forest at its foot. It sounds like the beginning of a Disney fairy tale or a fantasy tale, but it is none other than the story of Torre Alfina Castle.

It all stems from a watchtower from the Longobard era known as the Casseroaround which, in the Middle Ages, a castle was built. A centre of power, loved, guarded and almost worshipped by the noble families who reigned there, it was transformed over the centuries to become a majestic Renaissance fortress. One of the most significant moments in the history of the castle is linked to Edward Cahen d'Anvers, who at the beginning of the 20th century restored the castle and the Bosco del Sasseto at its feet, transforming it into a magical private garden, complete with a labyrinth of paths and hidden passages.

Table of contents:
  1. The Village of Torre Alfina
  2. The ghosts of the castle
  3. Folk tales and stories
  4. The mystic Marquis Cahen

The Charm of the Borgo

Today, the castle still watches over the village of Torre Alfina. Developed around the keep of the Cassero, the village is articulated as a typical medieval town with narrow streets, stone houses and atmospheres that seem to catapult the visitor into another era. Its main square offers a spectacular view of the castle and the keep seems to be visible everywhere from the village. The inhabitants have always attributed a Powerful symbolism at the Cassero Tower enough to be associated with witches ('tower of witches, n'dò se va, se vede").

Ghosts of the Castle

Around the Castle of Torre Alfina, circulate various legends and mysteries that contribute to making the place even more fascinating. The most famous is that of the Lady Restless, a spirit wanders restlessly through the rooms and gardens of the ancient mansion. Her identity is unknown, but she seems to be particularly attached to the inner courtyard of the castle, where she has left her indelible footprints. But the historic rooms of the castle seem to offer shelter to another ghost named Generoso. This spirit is described as benevolent but prone to pranks. The villagers claim that during foggy days, Generoso enjoys making the castle invisible from the village, adding a touch of mystery to the surrounding atmosphere.

Folklore of the Enchanted Forest

Local legends also tell of fantastic creatures that populate the paths of the Sasseto Forest. From generation to generation, stories of men turned into werewolves after drinking water from the Fontanella del Lupo, a hollow log always filled with water. There is talk of a witch, mother creator and protector of all woodland creatures. And again, the reason for the area's characteristic moss-covered lava boulders is thought to be the work of devils and witcheswhich with nocturnal rituals prevent the vegetation from growing, creating a unique and mysterious atmosphere in the surrounding forest.

Mystical place for Marquis Cahen

The Castle of Torre Alfina was beloved home of Marquis Edward Cahen who chose the Bosco del Sasseto as his burial place. He had a neo-Gothic mausoleum built there, now called the Fairy Temple. The lanes and paths in the forest were the subject of constant care and attention by the nobleman and his guards. The residents of the village were not allowed access for fear that man might damage this natural jewel. It is said that one day a child was caught by the guards stealing chestnuts and in his eagerness to flee he fell, losing his loot. The next day, the guards came to the home of the little thief with a basket full of chestnuts, kindly offered by the Marquis of Cahen.

Today, the Castle of Torre Alfina is registered in the Italian Register of Historic Houses of Excellence and on 29 September 2023 was awarded the prestigious Golden Crown of Residences d'Epoca. The Borgo since 2007 joined the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. For centuries, the castle, the village and the forest all around have stimulated people's imagination with their unfathomable aura of magic and mystery. The locals themselves are devoted to these places and the enchanted creatures that seem to inhabit them. Visitors cannot fail to be fascinated by the magical mysticism of this hidden gem in the heart of Tuscia.

The Castle Wheel

The Mysterious Object: The Wheel of Torre Alfina Castle

In a hidden room of the castle is an enigmatic vertically mounted iron wheel. What is it and what was the wheel of Torre Alfina Castle used for?

Objects used in past eras often appear mysterious and intriguing to our contemporary eyes. Beneath the appearance of simple artefacts are often hidden ingenious and innovative solutions that have marked the history and daily lives of people. One of these fascinating objects is the large Iron wheel of the Torre Alfina Castleobject that played a key role in the distribution of water in the rooms of theancient dwelling.

Table of contents:
  1. Access to water in medieval dwellings
  2. Bathing culture during the Renaissance
  3. Historical testimony of human ingenuity

Water in Medieval Dwellings

In general, medieval castles and noble residences were equipped with wells, cisterns and decorative tanks, often located in inner courtyards or gardens. These structures served as domestic water access points. But in the Middle Ages, the need for water was limited almost exclusively to cooking. There were no plumbing or sewage systems. Toilets, when present, were either open seats directly on the moat or on holding tanks. Personal hygiene was an unknown concept. Only gentlemen indulged in the occasional bath in a basin and there were no real bathing rooms. The water distribution was therefore entrusted to servants who filled buckets or other containers and carried them to the kitchen or to the stately rooms to satisfy daily needs.

Renaissance and Bath Culture

It was not until the Renaissance period that a new functional bathroom concept. The increased care devoted to personal hygiene, the drive towards refinement and comfort for the environment dedicated to body practices, led to the need to create a mechanised water distribution system and more efficient.
So we come to the unravelling of our mystery. The large iron wheel of the Torre Alfina Castle is a flywheel, a heavy disc connected to a hand pump which allowed water to be drawn from the cistern located in the castle courtyard. By operating the large wheel, the water rose to fill other cisterns strategically placed on the towers. From here, using gravitational force, water flowed through an intricate system of pipes to reach all the rooms in the castle.

Testimony of Human Ingenuity

The flywheel of the Torre Alfina Castle remained in operation until 1960when the manual pump was replaced by an electric one. Despite this the distribution system remained unchanged and water continues to supply the castle rooms by cascading down from the castle towers. Today it represents a historical testimony to the power of human ingenuity of transforming an everyday object into a fundamental instrument of innovation. The preservation of objects no longer in use represents a tangible testimony of our historical and technological evolution. Keeping the memory of these objects alive, we preserve the link with our past. These objects are not mere relics, but bridges connecting the past to the future, offering valuable perspectives on our ever-evolving journey.

The Lady Restless of Torre Alfina Castle

The Castle of Torre Alfina seems to be inhabited by the restless spirit of a mysterious lady who wanders the rooms and the garden without being able to find peace. Staff and visitors talk of apparitions and objects that move. And the Ghost Hunters also intervene.

Ancient dwellings are fascinating places in which the lives of mysterious characters and protagonists are intertwined. The majestic Torre Alfina Castle is a place rich in history and, apparently, inhabited by the spirit of a mysterious woman, nicknamed the 'Lady Restless'.

Table of contents:
  1. Evidence of moving objects
  2. Traces of presences in the castle
  3. Footprints in the garden
  4. Ghost hunters on the hunt for evidence

Moving Objects

It all stems from a series of direct testimonies of people who were allegedly witnesses of inexplicable events. The most recent was that of a married couple who had decided to stay overnight in the castle over Christmas. As a member of staff was about to open the door to their room, a crib with a very heavy glass bell on top suddenly shifted about 20 centimetres, crashing to the ground and shattering the bell into a thousand pieces.

Bell Apparitions and Unexplained Footsteps

But the evidence goes back even further. It is said that the staff who worked in the castle during the period of ownership Cahen (late 19th and early 20th century) would have witnessed even more disturbing events. Lilting footsteps in the old servants' corridor on the third level of the castle, without anyone arriving; the servants' call bell ringing inexplicably in the historic kitchen, without anyone having operated it. It even seems that a female figure was seen descending the 19th century staircase leading to the castle's main floor or suddenly materialise near the statue of the violin player.

Indelible Footprints in the Courtyard

And again. In November 2021, the castle gardener notices areas of grassless grass in the courtyard lawn, as if someone walking had left his footprint directly on the earth. Months pass, the grass dries up and only earth remains. The following spring, the grass is lush and green again, except along that mysterious walk, barren footprints that start in a corner of the courtyard and fade into nothingness.

Ghost Hunters speak

The interest aroused by these unexplained events also involved a team of Roman Ghost Hunters. The group installed cameras, a high-sensitivity recorder, a thermal imaging camera and an infrared and ultraviolet camera in the castle rooms. Although they did not record any striking paranormal events, the thermal camera seems to have detected athermal alteration on a chair of the ceremonial hall, although no one was seated there.

Like all historical residences, the Torre Alfina Castle remains a fascinating place full of enigmaswhere history, mystery and folklore intertwine in a unique atmosphere. We therefore look forward to a new manifestation of the Lady Without Peace, in the hope of discovering her identity, her story and thus being able to give her the longed-for eternal rest.

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