The "old woman of vinegar" in Palermo
One of the best-known stories in Palermo is the one of Giovanna Bonanno, a hag better known as "the old woman of vinegar".
Giovanna Bonanno, who lived in the eighteenth century, was a poor old woman and a beggar, considered by all to be a witch. He lived wandering here and there in the Zisa neighborhood and one day he witnessed an event that changed his life: he saw a mother carrying her suffering child in her arms, because she had accidentally taken a sip of vinegar for lice, a mixture based on of vinegar and arsenic that the aromatario itself sold. He immediately made her swallow some oil until the poor girl vomited, thus saving her life. The woman immediately understood that that vinegar-based concoction could change her standard of living. He bought a potion of vinegar for lice, soaked a piece of bread in it and fed it to a stray dog that he tied to the bastion of Porta d’Ossuna. He walked away and when he went back to check he found the dog dead. Since the mucous membrane of the dog's lips was not black and because the hairs did not come off easily, Giovanna realized that the vinegar was a poison that could be administered without leaving any trace. an arcane liqueur that could restore peace to families, for a modest sum it could help those poor and unhappy wives wishing to get rid of their husbands to take care of their lover completely.
In those years, medicine did not have many skills and therefore when doctors were called to the bedside of the unfortunate husband on duty, who was writhing in excruciating, agonizing abdominal pain, they were unable to ascertain the causes of death.
Suddenly in the Palermo neighborhood of the Zisa, very mysterious cases of death began to occur, and it was so for a long time, until the suspicion of a mother for the sudden death of her son, and the hasty new marriage of her daughter-in-law, did not trigger a mechanism of revenge . Pretending to want to buy a dose of vinegar too, at the time of delivery, she presented herself with four witnesses, catching Bonanno red-handed.
At this point the career of the "old vinegar" who was taken and locked up in the Steri prison. Here she was tried and condemned for poisoning and witchcraft.
On 30 July 1789 the woman was hanged. Since the soul of those who die as a result of an unnatural death is reluctant to leave this world, it is said that the ghost of the "old vinegar" continues to wander through those neighborhoods and alleys of Palermo to which she seems to have remained attached.