Very little of what has been written in Italian about the Monster of Florence has found its way into English. Il Mostro– obviously Italian for “monster”– is probably the No 1 serial killer in history. Sixteen victims are dead, killed in carefully calculated murder, then mutilation (for most female victims). The circumstances argue that he was a very, very relentless predator. He violated the heart of the Renaissance, the lovers’ lanes in the “sweet hills of Florence,” for 11 perhaps 17 years.
The Monster of Florence isn’t the No 1 serial killer in world history because his pursuers were the Anglo-American stereotype of the rivalrous and stumbling Italian police. Italian investigations are quite the contrary. Those unfamiliar with the Italian attitude of dietrologia dismiss Italian investigations as rubber hose stuff– where thuggish cops threaten to beat suspects. This is far from the truth. The world doesn’t understand how Italians obsess on details, rooted in Greco-Roman philosophic codes. But Il Mostro seems to have known this, taking many extra precautions. It is also true that Italians will arrest most anybody on the slightest suspicion. The upshot is that just to have success in Italy– i.e. not get caught– Il Mostro had to be one of the most premeditative and careful serial killers in history.
The places of the crime, all grouped around Florence.
But the greatest factor in the Monster’s favor in Italy was a simple fact: Italy had never dealt with a serial killer before.
Italy is a country where family is everything, where the sons are usually spoiled by their mothers. It is not a culture that breeds serial killers, and Italians really didn’t know how to react to such a macabre murderer as the Mostro would prove to be. Crimes of passion occur in Italy. Those are understandable. But a thrill killer killing just for his own twisted thrill wasn’t comprehensible. This happens in England, America, and a few of the Germanic countries. Not in Italy.
Examination of the details and reenactments of these crimes by the Italian police are impressive, but preservation of the larger crime scene wasn’t always so good. There is little evidence of footprints indicating Il Mostro’s weight, measurements indicating his stride (and thus possibly his height), but the evidence and clues in the immediate crime scene are preserved and logically put together according to ancient Greco-Roman efficiency.
What bogged down the Italian investigation was not an inability at crime scene investigation and reenactment. It was theorizing. The hypotheses constructed in all cases by all factions, and I am referring to officialdom, would strike the Anglo-American world as elaborate conspiracy theories. For those non Italian readers who have followed the case, you only have a smattering of the extrapolations that back all the theories. But each is woven somewhat carefully. Whether you believe in the theory of the “picnicking companions” (compagne di merende) or the pista Sarda (Sardinian Trail), each is a detailed theory of multiple actors who maintain omerta. This is something Italians can believe. A bond is a bond. Name an Italian traitor!?
Americans tend to reject such “conspiracy theories” outright, but they really aren’t conspiracy theories. Some of you have read about dietrologia– Italian for study of what’s “behind” it all. For many reasons Italians do not believe in a simple façade. For the Anglo-American world, if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. For Italians, if is looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a pheasant.
One of the principle reasons why Italian’s have dietrologia as a national character can be found in the history of Italy. Some prince or don was always engaging in some deception in order to win a city. Long before the Renaissance, Italians have suspected sudden deaths to be caused by poisoning. If it looks like suicide, it is probably murder.
Another reason Italians don’t believe in a simple façade is, well, because of something most of them have practiced. In Italy the children do not leave home until they marry, and many Italians marry late. The virile years in such a passionate country have inspired young Italians (giovani) to come up with many excuses for meeting with their lovers. In the modern world it usually ends up with a nice time in a parked car in the countryside. I’ve heard figures ranging as high as 1 out of 9 Italians are conceived in the backseat of a car. From youth, Italians become adroit with cover stories, and cover stories are just something that Italians assume are a part of life.
Therefore Italians tend to overthink, not underthink.
Italians are also obsessed with honor. If you insult an Italian in private, a magnanimous one might even thank you (if it is true). But insult one in public, and he’s going to get even. The various elements of the Mostro investigation disagreed and criticized each other too many times. Faccia was damaged!
This is nothing new. When Savonarola condemned Rodrigo Borgia as an abomination, dear Rodrigo (Pope Alexander VI) got even. He had him flayed over the fire in Florence. I don’t have a problem with that. Italians don’t like it implied that they act with an insincere motive.
Italians live everywhere. Not just in their house. The city itself is the Italian living room. Life is everywhere in a city– it is dotted with impressive works of art. Accomplishments are everywhere displayed: murals, fountains, statues, family names, inscriptions. To impugn faccia= it is more than an insult.
Florence and a piazza.
Rome was once dotted with 1,000 war towers from which the warring families shot at each other’s palaces and defended their own. The cannons lining the ramparts of the Vatican had been condemned as the scandal of the Christian world.
This mentality, well, it is still with us. It even affects staid members of the judiciary. They fought bitterly over theories and their line of investigation into who was Il Mostro. Each was going to outdo the others.
Then add dietrologia. Again, Italians don’t underthink. They often overthink. As I pointed out, all theories surrounding Il Mostro di Firenza are elaborate and involve in each theory multiple accomplices. It looked like one maniac, so that seems to be impossible. It’s got to be a gang. When the FBI gratuitously did a psychological profile for Florentine police, none seemed to believe it. It was put at the bottom of a stack of papers. From the American perspective, Il Mostro was a loner. But to Italians that didn’t make sense. Many didn’t even want to believe he was Italian. He must be a foreigner from one of those countries where they have more than enough of these type of losers.
Whatever Il Mostro’s national background, he knew the area of Florence and, furthermore, he knew he was dealing with Italian culture at every level.
Because of Italian tradition, lovers lanes and parking spots dot the hillsides– the Sweet Hills of Florence. The result is a network of pent up peeping toms who stake out areas and watch with high-powered scopes– even using cameras, I’m told. Yet Il Mostro was never seen.
On moonless nights he quietly approached his intended victims and opened fire, then stabbed the male victim about the neck to make sure he was dead, yanked the female victim out and mutilated her in an open area. It was ghastly carnage. Il Mostro wasn’t compulsive, at least by modern usage of the word. He was like the anti-werewolf. It was a moonless night that drove him wild. When there was no moon on a Saturday night, he went out and found his victims.
But wild like a wolf he really didn’t seem to be. He carefully selected his locations. He avoided the Indiani– the peeping toms. He knew many, many, lovers’ lanes around Florence. He used the same Beretta .22 caliber pistol and ammo from the same old 2 boxes he had from wherever. He used the same knife, which seemed to have been a scuba knife. There is a boot print that may be his. Considering he has 14 to 16 victims, little evidence is quite an evil accomplishment.
I tend to think Il Mostro knew his crimes would be masked by the Italian attitude of dietrologia. Perhaps some of his modus operandi caters to that cultural attitude. He waited for moonless Saturday nights, after all, always in Summer or early Fall. Perhaps this was to avoid the Indiani. But also wouldn’t a devil cult require such precision? He cut out the female reproductive area with a sharp knife, and he knew what he was doing. Three concise cuts were used to excise the organ. This too sounds like a cult ritual, and many Italians, including judicial investigators, believed that a cult of more than one man was responsible. But all felt, whether it was one jacket job or many, he was a gynecologists, doctor, or some strange nobleman. He was too sophisticated to be some peasant perv. Italians wouldn’t believe that. There had to be a mastermind.
In truth, Italy and especially Florentines reacted no different than London and eventually England reacted to Jack the Ripper. It is a nation’s reaction to their first serial killer. Red Jack really wasn’t England’s first, but his method gave him such news coverage that for all intents and purposes he was England’s first publicized serial killer. No one wanted to believe he was an Englishman. He had some ulterior motive. He was a part of some greater conspiracy.
All these suspicions and theories surround The Monster of Florence. He was NIGHT RIPPER– Giacomo Il Ripper.
The difference between Jack and Il Mostro, of course, is that the Monster could very well still be with us, an individual carefully concealed from public suspicion because of all the elaborate theories that have evolved.
The first killing occurred on a hot August night in 1968. Those who endorse the Pista Sarda believe Il Mostro was only a shadow at this crime and the real culprit– the simple-minded husband– did it. The reason, of course, to justify this theory is that the same Beretta used in that double murder is the one used in all the subsequent Il Mostro murders. But the husband was in jail during the Mostro murders or then a feeble man taken care of by nuns. So he couldn’t have become the Monster. Somebody else had to get the gun and, curiously, commit crimes that mimicked this murder of revenge on an unfaithful wife and her lover.
Officially, the Mostro omicidi (homicides) begin on a moonless Saturday night in 1974. Then there is a long break, and they take up again in 1981, with 2 pairs dying that year, on moonless Saturday and Friday nights. Then another couple is murdered in 1982– and you can guess the day of the week and a moonless night. Another couple in 1983, another in 1984, and the last in 1985. 14 victims. 16 if you count the 1968 couple.
And this in Italy, a country of family, eloquent passion, and superb artistic expression. It has never been repeated. Anywhere. 16 couples murdered in cars while necking. No survivors. No mistakes. That’s a hell of a record for a serial killer in a country that doesn’t breed serial killers. It breeds dietrologia. And the Monster carefully overthought his crimes in order to elude his pursuers.
We, too, will pursue Il Mostro with dietrologia in following posts. We will, of course, start in 1968.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.