A man my age, and some kids are cooking a cut of meat pierced on a sharp-tipped branch. I observe them, smile, and think that here, in Emilia Romagna, people know how to enjoy life, with a sense of humor.
I was expecting a touch of sacredness in the presence of this natural phenomenon that locals regard as the smallest volcano in the World.
In some respect, I was not mistaken. People around the fire observe this wonder with a blend of admiration and curiosity. But some, are roasting sausages.
I thought an autumn weekend was a nice moment to visit the valleys between Faenza and Tuscany. The red and yellowish tones of the leaves cannot dominate a landscape characterized by bright green meadows alternating with crops, rocky spurs, and evergreen trees.
A land of hamlets, castles and little villages where you can feel the human hand delineating perfect contours that reveal how much local folks love this land.
Tredozio is a charming townlet, crossed by a river with a carefully maintained bank that reminds a medieval movie set.
Leaving the center, you go up a ridge where scattered rural communities appear. A sign saying “open pass” is a reminder of winter snowfalls.
On the top of Monte Busca, the settlement with the same name resembles a holiday village of ancient times. Few houses, a restaurant, and a ballroom have the lonely and melancholic appearance of retreats living only in the summer.
Following the road to the right, the landscape opens up onto fertile fields. Cars and motorcycles parked next to a ruined cottage with the inscription “This must be the place“, is a clue that I’m are in the right spot.
A flame that burns but never runs out is attractive to many curious visitors. Most of them are looking at the fire with reverence, like this is not only an odd natural phenomenon but a way of connecting with the eternal.
But someone disappointed and was expecting more, deceived by the name “volcano”.
Technically, this is a “burning fountain“: a perennial flame fueled by hydrocarbons leaking from the ground.
A similar event is the well-known “Door to Hell” in Derweze, Turkmenistan, where the fire is more sensational than this one.
The Door to Hell was opened in 1971 because of an accident during an oil drilling operation. The gas leak was ignited deliberately to avoid worse environmental repercussions. Scientists believed that the fire would run out after a few months, but it has been going on for more than forty years.
Nobody knows when the “volcano of Monte Busca” originated. The first written record is by Leandro Alberti, an Italian historian. In 1588 he told of an eternal flame, in a place that locals call “The Hell“!
I like to imagine that this fire, over the centuries, has welcomed curious visitors, warmed wayfarers under the snowy weather, attracted those who regarded it as a divine or an infernal sign. And, why not? That it has amused families who, like today, have come here to roast a sausage on the flame of this small “volcano“.