Italian village aims to survive Maya prophecy

Cisternino - With its whitewashed homes and olive tree groves, Cisternino could be any other town in southern Italy but with one big distinction -- it may be the only place to be spared when the world ends. Some of the residents in the town of a few thousand souls believe they will survive the

December 21 apocalypse prophesied by the Mayas.

Even if the world does not self-destruct next week, town authorities are pleased about the influx of curious tourists that the prophecy has brought.

An Indian guru known as Babaji set up a community in the remote part of the Puglia region in the heel of Italy's boot at the end of the 1970s.

While his current whereabouts are not known -- followers say he might have been reincarnated -- Babaji is reported to have told his devotees that Cisternino "will become an island" when the world comes to an end, persuading many to move there.

"We don't know what will happen on December 21, but we are ready for anything," said Carmen Sisto, deputy head of the Babaji community.

Devotees are preparing a series of "Days for Information, Sharing, Celebration, Training and Meditation" between December 19 and 26.

The aim is: "Completing the great cycle and beginning new times".

On December 21 itself, the community will gather for a "special meditation for the good of the planet".

Cisternino mayor Donato Baccaro is delighted with the attention his town is receiving.

"I'm happy they are talking about us around the world of course," he said.

"We have organised the traditional Christmas market but we will certainly organise something on December 21 too," he added.

With a note of caution in his voice, however, he added: "We are reflecting, we don't want any surprises."