Over 500 years ago an Italian philosopher made the apocalyptic prediction that two consecutive days of snow in the sunny, southern Italian town of Salento would mean ‘the end of the world’.
Now Matteo Tafuri’s prophecy is at risk of coming true after freezing temperatures hit Italy’s Peninsula, blanketing Salento’s beaches in snow.
‘Italian Nostradamus’ Tafuri, who lived from 1492-1582, was one of the most eminent personalities of Apulia region of Italy in the 16th century.
Warning that two days of Salento would lead to the end of the world, he wrote: ‘Salento of palm trees and mild south wind, snowy Salento but never after the touch. Two days of snow, two flashes in the sky, I know the world ends, but I do not yearn.’
Snow has covered the beaches of southern Italy for two days in a row this weekend
According to the Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, Tafuri was a lover of Greek and Latin literature, a physician and skilled astrologer.
After travelling to England, he was jailed after being suspected of Lutheranism. He also ‘indulged in some misguided prophecies, predicting the imminent death of Charles V,’ the encyclopedia says.
After his release he is said to have travelled to Ireland, where he was accused of practising magic. But papal intervention led to the charges being dropped and he returned to Italy.
Italian philosopher Matteo Tafuri is thought to have lived from 1492-1582
The snow in Salento fell over the weekend as schools were closed in a handful of Italy’s southern cities not accustomed to such heavy snowfall.
Individual schools also closed in Rome and Bologna because heaters weren’t working, news reports said.
The sub-freezing temperatures have been blamed for the deaths of at least eight people and have disrupted road, rail, air and ferry travel.
On Tuesday officials said sub-freezing temperatures across swathes of Europe have claimed over 60 victims in recent days – notably in Poland, Romania and the Balkans – with migrants and the homeless among the most vulnerable.
Six people died in Poland and seven more in the Balkans over a 24-hour period as temperatures plunged across Europe, while Romania announced six deaths in recent days.
Authorities in Warsaw said the toll of hypothermia deaths in the country since November 1 had now risen to 71.
Freezing temperatures hit Italy’s Peninsula this weekend. A beach on the peninsula is pictured here in summer
Polish police urged people to help those most vulnerable, especially the homeless, as the mercury sank to below -20 degrees Celsius (minus four degrees Fahrenheit) in some regions.
‘Another six people died due to exposure over the last 24 hours,’ the centre for national security (RCB) said on Tuesday in a statement.
Local authorities have also issued smog alerts across Poland, urging children and the elderly to remain indoors as coal and waste-fired home furnaces drive up air pollution to the highest levels recorded in years.
Last winter in Poland was unusually mild but still claimed 77 lives in the nation of 38 million, compared to 78 in 2013-2014 and 177 in 2012-2013.
In the Balkans, a father and son were amongst at least seven people reported to have died in the last 24 hours, local media said – three each in Serbia and Macedonia, and one in Albania.
Social media users have shared bizarre photos of Salento’s beaches covered in snow
Tafuri’s prophecy said: ‘Salento of palm trees and mild south wind, snowy Salento but never after the touch. Two days of snow, two flashes in the sky, I know the world ends, but I do not yearn.’
In southern Serbia, where temperatures have fallen below -20 C and a state of emergency has been declared, an 88-year-old father and his 64-year-old son died of the cold in the village of Duga Poljana.
But in the east of the country there was rare good news as national television station RTS reported the miraculous survival of a man in the village of Smoljinac who survived for two days in temperatures reaching minus 20 Celsius after falling down a well.
Finally rescued by a neighbour, he was taken to hospital.
In Slovakia, six people have succumbed to the cold weather in recent days, according the country’s Central Emergency Services told AFP Tuesday.
The current deep freeze sweeping Europe has also killed six people in Romania in recent days, according to first official figures released by the health ministry in Bucharest.
This raises the total number of deaths across the continent to over 60 in just a few days, with many of the victims being migrants or homeless people.
In Greece, which has more than 60,000 mainly Syrian refugees on its territory, many migrants have been moved to prefabricated houses and heated tents.
It has also sent a tank landing craft to Lesbos to pick up refugees and migrants currently living in miserable conditions in the Moria refugee camp, navy spokesman Spyridon Pollatos told AFP.
The craft ‘should arrive on Wednesday and can house 500 people’, Pollatos said.
More than 2,500 people, ‘including children, women and disabled people’ are living ‘in tents, without either hot water or heating’ at the Moria camp, said Apostolos Veizis of Doctors Without Borders.
Since Friday, Greece has been hit by an unusually cold snap and heavy snowfall.
Meanwhile, traffic on the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria was halted indefinitely on Tuesday.
Schools remained closed in large parts of Romania, with more snow storms forecast for Tuesday evening.
Heavy snowstorms also reached Turkey over the weekend, paralysing its biggest city Istanbul where almost 65 centimetres (25 inches) of snow fell, forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled on Saturday.
The Russian capital recorded its coldest Orthodox Christmas Night for 120 years at the weekend, according to media reports.