Ph. Anna Rapisarda

On Lake Como

The mountains of Lake Como are covered with woods and also hide underground mazes of tunnels and caves. Among them there is one, the longest in Italy, which extends for 62 kilometres under the Pian del Tivano. It is said that many magical creatures live here, such as the mischievous elves.

The legend

It is difficult to meet an elf face to face: “if you see him or, worse, make fun of him, then he will disappear”.

He can become tiny until he is invisible, he is capable of transforming himself into leaves, wind, grass, stones or fireballs to enter homes; it lives in the shade, among woods, mines, caves.
To be precise, an elf is an intermediate demon, that is, half demon and half human, and as such he can affect the weather. He is in fact capable of hiding in the wind, and through maddening whirlpools, moving between fields and houses, without being seen.
He cannot cause storms like dragons do and his magic is not as miraculous as that of wizards, witches, sorcerers, but rather comical: it uses it to make jokes in the home, such as hiding objects, mixing the seeds of the harvest in sacks, tie horse hair, move and drop everything, create disorder.

Sometimes his jokes are not funny at all: the Encof, a female elf, not only causes nightmares, but she lives in the chimney of the house, obstructing it and thus asphyxiating the inhabitants.
In Val Cavargna, the Bragöla, whose name derives from sbraga, “to complain”, with their long, hairy arms and “sparkling” eyes, help their protégés in various chores, such as mowing the lawn. For this to happen, just leave some food on your scythe and sickle before nightfall. These elves are very fast in sneaking everywhere and tend to hide in the bushes: to find them just follow their mumbles.
Their favourite joke? Frightening the nocturnal walkers by throwing themselves at them. Their favourite place to do this is the Dovia bridge in Carlazzo: if they see someone pass by with a basket in their hand, they turn into a hairy ball to chase them, rolling along the slopes, while yelling at them.
They sneak into houses to steal chestnuts, milk and the local cake called matusa.

Then there are the Vissinei of Como, who are always elves, but with a more spirit-like appearance.

However, if you encounter one who targets you, just not consider him. In particular, it is recommended not to swear, because he enjoys seeing you angry and would continue to disturb you relentlessly.

> Il Pian del Tivano is here
> La Val Cavargna is here

“Il grande libro dei misteri della Lombardia risolti e irrisolti” Federico Crimi, Giulio M. Facchetti (Newton Compton Editori, 2008)