When you drive along the harrowing curves that take you from Pontremoli to Zeri, you’ll come across some street signs that allude in various ways to the “valleys of Zeri”. It immediately becomes clear that this imprecise number of mountain inlets is by its very nature mysterious—after all, the signs don’t specify how many of these valleys there are—and so it’s no surprise, once you’ve reached the stunning viewpoint over tiny villages and mountainous landscapes, that this land at the base of the Zum Zeri ski slopes is a land where legends run deep. I simply must share with you, therefore, all that I’ve just learned.
Atop Mount Lama, in an almost empty village, it’s said that some of the residents carried out incredible miracles. They could make people fly or disappear, and even transform them into animals. A Zeri native living in Corsica had a nostalgic longing for the lady love he’d left behind in the town; he asked a fellow countryman who was skilled in magic to help him fly over to his hometown. Using a miraculous ointment, the young man was transformed into a cat, and as a cat he was able to enter into his beloved’s room at night. The light, however, obscured the cat’s vision, and with a strike of the paw he put out the lamp. The young woman — found in the arms of another — became furious and chopped off the cat’s paw with an axe. The following day when the lady faced her former love in the flesh, the young man was missing a hand.
On Saint John’s day many years ago, a whole family — father, mother and son — opted to do some field work with oxen around the Lake Peloso area instead of going to mass. When asked why they hadn’t gone to church that day, they responded that they had no need for it. A dense fog suddenly enveloped the field where they were working, and the three of them, immediately disoriented, fell straight into the water. Some people say, even today, that at the bottom of the lake, you can still see the eyes of the oxen and the bow of the young boy’s crib. Others say that a farmer saw his oxen fall into the lake after they moved to close to it when taking a drink.
Along the curving roads that lead from Pontremoli to Zeri, a mysterious bridge crosses over a deep canal. It’s the “bridge of sounds”, and the site where the body of a man possessed by demons, who even after death continued to writhe and shout, was once thrown over into the water. It appears that every now and then—only at night—from the depths of the canal, you can hear the sound of chains that beat against the rocks.
The final story says that the last of the Malaspina noble family to occupy their old castle was killed with a gunshot by the father of a girl from the Osti family, intent on defending his daughter from the demands of the Ius Primae Noctis put forth by the nobleman—or the “rights of the first night” of marriage. The father waited until 11:00 in the morning, the hour in which the signore would poke his head out of the castle windows, and he gunned him down with a shot to the forehead.