The Red House – Italy’s Most Haunted Villa Which Lies Abandoned and Off Limits

In the beautiful mountains of Cortenova in northern Italy, not far from Lake Como, stands a villa that holds a tale of gothic tragedy. Known as Villa de Vecchi, it’s often called the Red House, The Witches House, or the Ghost House. Unfortunately, over time and due to graffiti, the villa’s former grandeur has faded into ruin.

But the story of this place wasn’t always so gloomy. Once upon a time, Villa de Vecchi was a charming vacation spot owned by Count Felix de Vecchi and his family. Count de Vecchi, a remarkable figure born in 1816, was not only a heroic military man but also a skilled artist and an adventurous soul. He played a role in liberating Milan from Austria during Italy’s unification and gained fame for his romantic portrayals of his travels to places like the Middle East, Egypt, and India. He even wrote a popular book illustrated with his own adventures.

View of Varenna town at lake Como, Italy

In 1844, the Count married Carolina Franchetti di Ponte, and the two embarked on a journey throughout Italy. Even after their return to Milan, the Count continued to paint and write about his experiences. Inspired by his childhood memories of Eastern nations and his travels, in 1854 he enlisted architect Alessandro Sidioli to design a summer getaway. This villa was equipped with modern amenities of the time like indoor plumbing, hot water pipes, and even a pressure-driven outdoor fountain. It was adorned with beautiful murals and artistic details inside, including a grand piano and a spacious fireplace.

Tragically, Alessandro Sidioli passed away before completing the villa. And this is where the legend takes root. According to the stories surrounding the Red House, the happiness of the de Vecchi family was shattered one night in 1862 when Count de Vecchi returned home to find his wife brutally murdered and his daughter missing. Despite his efforts, his daughter was never found, and consumed by grief, the Count passed away less than a year later.

The reasons behind the tragedy remain unclear. Some speculate that it might have been a consequence of his support for Italy’s Unification, but no one was ever charged. The villa then passed to the Count’s brother, Biago, and changed hands among various aristocratic families until the 1960s when it was abandoned.

Even though reality tells a less eerie story, the Red House has become a magnet for ghost stories and paranormal enthusiasts. Despite this, the truth is that Count de Vecchi had commissioned the construction of the Red House as a way to make use of nearby thermal springs. Unfortunately, by the time Alessandro Sidioli was involved, the Count had already lost his wife.

In his later years, the Count’s health declined due to a liver condition, and he spent his time between Milan and Cortenova, caring for his children and continuing his art. He passed away at 46 due to liver failure, leaving his property to his brother and the care of his children.

Despite the legends and ghost stories, the Red House stands today as a weathered relic of the past. Nature has started to reclaim it, and though an avalanche in 2002 damaged buildings in Cortenova, the Red House remained untouched.

People have left their mark on the villa as well, with the grand piano now demolished and the once-beautiful frescoes obscured by layers of graffiti.

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