Illustrating the Mysteries of Italy
One of Italian illustrator Francesco Bongiorni’s latest projects is an eerie, evocative series that illustrates a new book titled The Atlas of the Mysterious Places of Italy (Atlante dei luoghi misteriosi d’Italia), which explores Italian locales tied to mysterious legends, strange stories, and dark folktales.
Polidoro and Bongiorni also researched the legends together. Bongiorni says, “These studies fascinated me—and I was able to discover an unknown, and certainly not very touristic, part of my country…. We managed to discover secret places and legends that are very little known even by Italians.”
One story that especially fascinated Bongiorni was the legend of the “Tatzelwurm,” a monstrous cryptid (often said to have the body of a lizard and the face of a cat) that menaces the Alps. “For years I would go on holidays in the Alps, and discovering this story so close to me was amazing,” says Biongiorni. “The curious thing is that this creature would have been sighted in places and times very distant from each other. Is it possible not to be fascinated by stories like this?”
SEEING OLD LEGENDS IN A NEW LIGHT
The illustration of “Dracula’s tomb” is one of Bongiorni’s favorite images. Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula—the title character of Stoker’s famous gothic horror novel—was largely based on the 15th-century Wallachian Prince Vlad the Impaler, who died doing battle against forces of the Ottoman Empire. According to legend, his head was sent to Constantinople, while his body was laid to rest near Bucharest. But recent research points to Vlad’s having been interred at the Santa Maria la Nova church in Naples.
The Atlas of the Mysterious Places of Italy was originally scheduled to be released in mid-October of 2018, but the large amount of black in Bongiorni’s images caused a slight delay. “The amount of ink caused the pages to dry more slowly,” he says, “so the publisher decided to postpone the release. With that delay, the book ended up being released on October 31—Halloween. Was that really a coincidence?”