Self-taught seismologist Raffaele Bendandi never predicted an 11 May quake, but workers and schoolchildren are taking day off
Rome's Colosseum will be among the buildings razed to the ground by an earthquake on 11 May 2011, according the internet rumour mill.
Well, so much for the Eternal city. On Wednesday, Rome will be razed to the ground by an earthquake that will shatter more than 2,000 years' worth of monumental architecture including the Colosseum, the Pantheon and St Peter's.
That, at least, is the fear of hundreds of thousands of Romans, spooked by the reputed forecast of a self-taught seismologist who died more than 30 years ago. The daily La Repubblica reported that applications from the capital's public employees for a day off – and, presumably, out – were 18% higher than for the same day in 2011. Education officials were said to be expecting school attendances to be down by a fifth as parents decide it is better to be on the safe side.
The panic was set off by claims that Raffaele Bendandi, the "earthquake prophet", forecast a devastating tremor that would rip through the capital on 11 May. Bendandi, who was knighted by Mussolini, is said to have predicted several disasters, including the Friuli quake of 1976, which claimed almost 1,000 lives.
Reports of his forecast have gained credence from the awesome rumour-mongering capabilities of the internet; the fact that Rome is undeniably on the edge of a seismic region, and the lingering recollection that a non-specialist predicted the earthquake that devastated the central Italian city of L'Aquila two years ago.
But, according to the head of a foundation set up in Bendandi's honour in his native town near Bologna, it is all an urban – indeed, very urban – legend.
"I can state with absolute certainty that in Raffaele Bendandi's papers, there is no prediction of a earthquake in Rome on 11 May 2011," Paola Lagorio, the president of the Osservatorio Geoficico Comunale of Faenza, said last month. "The date is not there. The place is not there."