Last year saw the release of the book the Monster of Florence, a true tale about a serial killer who terrorized the hills around the Tuscan capital for almost 20 years, from 1968 until 1985. While several men were tried for the heinous crimes, many Italians, crime experts, and the book authors Mario Spezi and Douglas Preston, believe that the real killer remains on the loose to this day.
I knew nothing about the sensational story of the Monster of Florence when I was first doing research for one of my Italy guides long ago. Certainly, I had heard of Il Mostro, the dark comedy by Roberto Benigni based on the crimes and the search for the perpetrator, but I hadn’t given it a second thought. You can be sure that the tourism boards did not wish to point out the areas where these crimes had taken place. In fact, two of the victims – Horst Meyer and Uwe Rüsch – were tourists who were camping in the Tuscan hills.
As a travel writer, I also wasn’t keen to reveal this scary piece of Tuscan history. No use in discouraging travelers from visiting Tuscany just because of a few terrible incidents, I thought. But looking back on one of my research trips, I realized that I had actually stayed in a hotel – by myself – just minutes from one of the crimes scenes. The thought of it still sends shivers up my spine.
The part that especially upsets me is a memory of strolling into my hotel in the early evening. I had gone to a local pizzeria and enoteca to pick up my dinner for the evening. I was strolling the quiet suburban Tuscan streets in the twilight without a worry. Little did I know that the Monster of Florence had likely prowled down this same street searching for victims or on his way back from a fresh kill. Did I mention that the story of the Monster of Florence was the inspiration for Hannibal Lecter? Did I also mention that this particular evening was September 10, 2001? Horrible events – both past and future – were swirling about and I had no clue!
Well, I still have no desire to reveal where my fateful hotel was. That would not be fair to the hotel. But above is a map of the locations of the crimes. On the Monster of Florence UK website you can view a timeline of the events and their locations. Read these at your own risk! You’ll never look upon the Tuscan hills in the same way again!
By the way, here is a full-length 48 Hours video of author Douglas Preston speaking of his own entanglement with the case as well as the more recent murder trial of American student Amanda Knox in Perugia.