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I remember when I was a child seeing a film, set in the desert of North Africa, in which a man was stung by a deadly scorpion which was hiding in one of his boots. Che impressione! (how frightening) for a long time after seeing that film I always used to bang and shake my shoes before putting them on in the morning. But were my fears justified, do scorpions live in Italy?
Ma si’, ce ne sono tanti! (yes, there are loads). Euscorpius, the species that inhabits the Italian peninsula, is not the deadly monster found in Africa, yet neither is it the most pleasant of visitors to have in one’s house. Lots of beautiful things arrive with the hot weather, but try as I might I am unable to find any beauty in gli scorpioni. Descriptive words that come readily to mind are schifo, and brutto, and yet at the same time lo scorpione elicits both a primeval fear and a strange kind of fascination.
Like many things that we have a slightly irrational fear of, it often helps to informarsi meglio (better inform oneself) and therefore make a better judgment about whether our fears are well founded or not.
In fact the much feared scorpione turns out to be even more terrified of humans than we are of it, and only punge (stings) in very rare cases, such as if it is cornered, grabbed by hand, or trodden on with bare feet. The sting of the Italian scorpion, however, is not velenoso (poisonous), and can be compared in strength with a bee sting. Lo scorpione is a timid creatura notturna (nocturnal creature), avoiding the light but at the same time loving the heat. We often find one skulking under our zerbino (doormat), or under a rock on the orto (vegetable garden) where they hide from the glare of the sun. During the night however, they scurry out of their hiding places and explore their territory, hunting for zanzare, mosche, e scarafaggi (mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches) which they catch with their chele (claws).
During our first summer in our Tuscan house, which we converted from an old fienile (barn), we used to find one or two scorpioni every evening trying uselessly to camouflage their black carapaces against our lovely whitewashed walls. When they are caught like this out in the open they seem to get paralyzed with fear into their classic defensive position, with legs pulled in, chele extended, and that nasty looking tail curled up above their back ready to strike. However, their preference is not to fight, but to run away and hide. How sensible of them! With the passing of time gli scorpioni seem to have learnt that this is no longer an old barn but casa nostra (our house), and having been unceremoniously chucked out of the window several times have decided to take up residence elsewhere. The most interesting place that we ever found a scorpione was inside the washing machine! Don’t ask me how it got there.
If you are desperate to see some pictures of Euscorpius have a look here: Gli Scorpioni in Italia