What to see in Triora, the town of witches




The panorama over the village of Triora from San Dalmazzo

Discovering the Ligurian Riviera

What to see in Triora, the town of witches




October 27, 2022

Have you ever heard of the village of witches in Liguria? We are in Triora, in the province of Imperia, a village known for certain events that occurred towards the end of the 1500s, when some women were accused of witchcraft.

Strolling through the narrow alleyways of Triora

Even today, Triora appears as a charming medieval village, with narrow labyrinthine alleys, small squares and gates depicting a witch. Protected by the ancient castle and defensive towers, the village, named among the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy and awarded the prestigious Orange Flag, attracts thousands of tourists every year, intrigued by its unique history.

The village is also known for the events held every year that celebrate precisely the legends about witches: these obviously include the Halloween celebrations and Strigora, the witches' festival, celebrated on 19 August.

 

What to do and what to see in Triora? There is no shortage of activities, including monuments, museums, activities and events closely linked to the witches' legends.

How to get to Triora[ back to menu ]

Our holiday flats in Diano Marina are ideal for exploring western Liguria. To reach Triora from Agriturismo Le Girandole, take the A10 motorway from San Bartolomeo al Mare, then take the Arma di Taggia exit.

From the motorway exit, then follow the signs for Triora along the SP 584, pass the municipality of Badalucco and follow the road that climbs the hill until you reach your destination: Triora is in fact 780 metres above sea level.

History and legends of the witches of Triora: what happened to them?[ back to menu ]

Legends say that the village of Triora was once inhabited by witches, so much so that it is still called the "village of witches". There is still a surreal atmosphere in the streets today, with depictions of witches on doorways and the possibility of visiting the Cabotina, the witches' house.

The legends about these magical and mysterious figures originated following certain events that took place towards the end of the 16th century. In fact, it is said that Triora was the scene of one of the most famous witch trials in Italy, in which some women were accused of witchcraft. As a result of the trial, Triora was also given the nickname "Salem of Italy".

A witch in via Roma in Triora

But what happened to the witches of Triora?

From what emerges from a letter written by the Cardinal of Santa Severina, of the Congregation of the Holy Inquisition in Rome, and dated 28 August 1589, it can be somewhat assumed that the Tribunal of the Holy Office proceeded with less severity than the ecclesiastical authorities in Genoa and that at least some, if not all, of the women accused of witchcraft in Triora were subsequently freed.

 

Among the various hypotheses on the fate of the witches of Triora, it is possible to find one that is at least suggestive, which is linked to San Martino di Struppa, a village in the upper Val Bisagno located in the hinterland of Genoa, historically indicated as a place of deportation for prisoners and, presumably, women accused of witchcraft. In some parish books dating from the 1600s onwards, it is indeed possible to find the name "Bazoro" or "Bazora", which unequivocally recalls the Ligurian dialect term bàzura, baggiura or bagiua, with which the witch is commonly referred to in the upper Argentina valley.

Some pages found, torn from census documents, as well as magic formulas against illnesses, later handed down by the local elders, heighten the aura of mystery that still shrouds their fate.

Since their removal from their native village, unfortunately, all trace of the Trioresi women has been lost: it is, however, nice to think that they may have somehow survived, rebuilding their lives somewhere in the province of Genoa. It is currently possible to come across surnames that allude to these women with alleged magical powers, nowadays turned into "Bazzurro".

 

"Triora is the Italian Loudun, the European Salem. But it is more correct to say that Loudun is the Triora of France and Salem the Triora of New England, since the famous witch trials took place in Triora in 1588, and its chronological priority is undoubted, while in nothing is it inferior to the other two in terms of frightening tension. On the other hand, the village perched in the Ligurian mountains is one of the points on the planet where the reassuring mesh woven by Enlightenment culture breaks down and where elemental darkness emerges into the open. A network of 'marked' places exists on the entire earth's surface, and one could draw a map of them: the crossroads of sulphurous coordinates, the alephs that should not be spoken of.

Triora, illustrious among the aleph of the planet, is not an exclusive place: it is only a privileged centre of revelations, and the surrounding unknown land, with its caverns, access to which is discouraged for the profane and the uninformed (as well as the diehard illuminists, on whom Elémire Zolla's sarcasm has fallen sharply), is not a world apart.”

Taken from Quirino Principe, La terra, la donna, il diavolo, il libro.

What to see in Triora [ back to menu ]

 

Triora is a pretty village in the Imperia hinterland, located in the Argentina Valley. In addition to its special history, it is characterised by pretty, intersecting streets, historic palazzos, a church and various places of interest.

It is possible to visit Triora on one's own, or follow one of three guided routes through the town:

  • Art, marked by red signs, with an itinerary that touches on Triora's main places of artistic interest, starting near the Witchcraft Museum.

  • Curiosity, departing from the castle and marked in blue, which leads to the discovery of the village's curiosities.

  • Kids, with yellow markings, designed to accompany children to discover the witch sites, but with a narrative suitable for younger children.

Discovering the village[ back to menu ]

 

Entering the historic centre of the village from the hospital, one immediately encounters the narrow, characteristic caruggi, typical of the villages of the Ligurian hinterland, and continues in the direction of Piazza del Mercato. Both along the main caruggio and on the side streets, you can admire beautiful painted doors and, in a small square, even a stylised witch.

Piazza del Mercato is certainly the largest square in the town, together with Piazza Beato Tommaso Regio. It is overlooked by old multi-storey stone houses, which are certainly very scenic.

Piazza Beato Tommaso Regio is considered Triora's main square. Palazzo Stella, seat of the Triora Museum - Civic and diffuse, and the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Triora's main church, testify to the village's ancient splendour.

View of Piazza Beato Tommaso Regio in Triora

The ancient ovens and bread of Triora [ back to menu ]

 

Not far from Piazza Beato Tommaso Regio one is attracted by a sign indicating the Vicolo Forno (Oven Alley): walking down the alleyway one arrives at the ground floor of a building where one can observe an ancient bread-making oven, with a mannequin showing in a stylised manner how bread-making was once done.

There were no less than four public ovens in Triora: the 'di Davide' oven in the Sambughea district, an oven located near the Lourdes grotto, the third located in the street of the same name between the Cava and the Carrèia (today Via Roma) and one in Via Dietro la Colla. Of these, the first three closed about a century and a half ago. The last to surrender was the one in Via Dietro la Colla, now replaced by a modern bakery in the Quartiere region.

 

Triora's bread is still well known today. In fact, the bakery was much more than a place of work, but also a meeting point for local housewives who, late in the morning, would go there to bake their loaves, recognisable by their round shape and marked with a letter or stamp. The dough was placed on a board, the pan-oia, and baked with the help of a long wooden shovel, the lnfornavuia. As compensation, the baker was entitled to one of the baked loaves. Vegetable cakes and sweet cakes, as well as stuffed vegetables, were also baked afterwards.

The wood for heating the ovens was procured by the affogavue, who received four soldi as compensation, or one loaf every fortnight.

 

The recipe for Triora's round bread is still a mystery today. There have been numerous attempts to reproduce it from neighbouring towns, but with little result.

The reproduction of an ancient oven of Triora

The Sambughea quarter and the cistern[ back to menu ]

 

Walking down Via Camurata, one passes Largo Tamagni, dedicated to Francesco Tamagni, a Triorese from 1863 who became a general after receiving several medals during the Libyan War against the Ottoman Empire and during the First World War. The Sambughea quarter and the central cistern are soon reached. The beginning of the quarter marks the watershed between the upper and lower parts of the village.

This area of Triora today appears dark, uninhabited and in total ruin. Not surprisingly, the neighbourhood's history is also permeated with narratives and legends.

The caruggi of Sambughea are characterised by the presence of numerous walled gates. According to legend, in the year when the plague gave the population no respite, the inhabitants of this street persisted in surviving the disease, without giving any sign of wanting to expire, and were therefore walled up alive inside their houses.

A glimpse of the Sambughea quarter in Triora

Not far away is the central cistern of via Camurata, one of the most characteristic areas of the village, once called 'via antiche fortezze' (ancient fortress street). Here the buildings still appear intact today, spared from the German attacks of 1944. An inscription at the beginning of the quarter states that this is the 'limit of the division of the village between the upper and lower parts' and that the latter 'was subject to the Counts of Ventimiglia until 1260'.

Under an arch we find the central cistern, which over the centuries enabled the inhabitants to survive periods of drought and sieges, including the siege by the Piedmontese in 1625. Above the fountain is a high relief in black stone, the work of a local artist, depicting two dolphins and a shield.

A plaque under the arches of the Oratory of St. John the Baptist commemorates Luca Verrando, the last usher of the local Magistrate's Court and a renowned artist, known for his ornamental painting techniques and for iron and woodworking. To him is attributed the fresco painted in the council chamber of the old town hall, which was unfortunately burnt by German soldiers during World War II, depicting the three main local products: wheat, vine and chestnut. Hence the origin of the name of the village of Triora: from the Latin Tria Ora, meaning three mouths.

The central cistern of Triora

The Soprana Fountain[ back to menu ]

 

Walking up the village, one reaches the Fontana Soprana, from which it is possible to reach some of Triora's key sites: the Cabotina, San Dalmazzo, or the church of San Dalmazio, the Castle and the poggio della Croce.

The Fontana Soprana gate, characterised by a round arch, is the best preserved: in fact, the hinges are still visible, as well as some remains of the city walls and its loopholes.

From the fountain, lined with charming stone slabs, flows water from the canal that descends from the top of the village and comes from the region of Curgala, where the living spring is located, and from Gorda sottana.

A view of Triora's Fontana Soprana

The Cabotina, the witches' house[ back to menu ]

 

La Cabotina is also known as the 'witches' house'. The view across the valley allows you to see the municipality of Molini below, while on the opposite side of the hill, the villages of Andagna and Corte. From the Cabotina, you can follow a road, currently under construction, that connects to the ring-route between Molini and Triora. It is precisely in this area that one can admire some doors painted with depictions of witches.

The Cabotina is in fact a sort of small cave, a ravine inside which we find a dummy of a witch intent on preparing some magic potion in a pot, with a broom at her side.

The entrance to the Cabotina

In the common imagination, witches are ugly and often evil women. In reality, this is a stereotype handed down through legends and folk tales: they were in fact absolutely normal women, often very charming and capable of sharing their beneficial powers. They were indeed knowledgeable connoisseurs of herbs and medicine. Famous is the strigonella (staohys recta), a herb indicated against insomnia and stress, but vulgarly known as Madonna's wort: a curious juxtaposition of pagan and Christian images.

 

According to stories that have survived to the present day, the Cabotina was where the bàgiue, or witches, mixed their magical herbs and prepared potions. It is said that, under the effects of their mixtures, they would indulge in obscene dances and orgies with the devil, who often took animal forms. They would then kidnap the children of the village, left to play unattended in the open air, and turn themselves into pumpkins, waiting to be plucked by the lover and then cause him torment.

From the farmyard in front of the house they would take flight on the back of a goat, heading towards the Lagudegnu, the Noce, the Campumavue fountain or the Rocca di Andagna, sometimes arriving in bird form as far as the island of Gallinara.

View from the Cabotina, the witches' house in Triora

The Church of San Dalmazzo and the Rizettu[ back to menu ]

 

The Church of San Dalmazzo, or San Dalmazio, is located a short distance from the Cabotina and the Rizettu, a place where there were a number of buildings, destroyed during the last world war, that in medieval times were used to store and protect provisions and foodstuffs in the event of war.

The church, mentioned in a document dated 11 March 1261, is thought to have been erected by Benedictine monks during their evangelisation work in the Argentina valley, thus becoming a place of Catholic worship in Triora.

Along the road leading to the Church of San Dalmazzo one encounters numerous buildings in ruins, which contribute to conveying the atmosphere of total abandonment common to some areas of the area. It can currently only be visited externally.

Glimpse of the Church of San Dalmazzo in Triora

The Church of San Bernardino[ back to menu ]

 

The Church of San Bernardino can currently only be visited externally. The religious building was built around the middle of the 15th century and dedicated to the saint from Siena, who is also said to have performed several miracles in Triora.

Noteworthy are the Renaissance arcade and the gigantic horse chestnut tree, classified among the monumental trees. Inside are important frescoes dating from the 15th century and the early decades of the 16th century, attributed to important painters, including Canavesio and Giovanni Baleison da Demonte.

What to do in Triora[ back to menu ]

 

The discovery of the village of Triora continues with walks and visits to abandoned hamlets. Also not to be missed is a visit to the museums, namely the Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum and the Triora diffuse museum.

A walk to the Poggio della Croce [ back to menu ]

 

Poggio della Croce is located north of Triora and can be reached by taking a short mule track from Fontana Soprana. It takes its name from the iron cross placed on its summit at the end of a Christian mission. As ancient tales tell, it was considered a pleasant and serene place to relax in the shade of the trees.

On the way to the village is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Laghet, built at the behest of Luigi and Giulia Moraldo, a short distance from the family villa, now abandoned. It was built at the foot of the resting place of their only son, who fell among the rocks of Mauta when he was only nineteen years old.

The church was restored by volunteers in the 2000s, who placed ceramic tiles created by local artist Diana Fontana: a central one depicting the effigy of the Madonna and two side ones with St John.

View of Triora from Poggio della Croce

Visit the Castle of Triora[ back to menu ]

 

Although little remains of the Castle today, it remains an extremely evocative place to visit. The history of the Castle dates back to ancient times: it was built in the period between the 12th and 13th centuries and constructed entirely in the rock at what was then the highest point of the village of Triora. It was in a strategic position and had great military importance, until it was gradually abandoned following the advent of firearms.

View of Triora and the castle

What to see and do near Triora[ back to menu ]

 

It is worth stopping just before arriving in Triora to admire some of the monuments, the views over the valleys of the Upper Valle Argentina and to practice adrenalin-pumping activities, such as canyoning.

 

The Loreto Bridge[ back to menu ]

 

About 3.5 km from Triora you can see the Loreto Bridge. Looking up towards the mountains, one can admire the Upper Argentina Valley, in particular the part of the valley leading to Bregalla, Creppo, Borniga and Realdo. Towards the south, on the other hand, we find a long and narrow valley, crossed by the Fora di Taggia, where it is possible to practice canyoning.

The bridge was erected in 1958 to connect Triora to the hamlet of Cetta: it runs at a height of about 112 metres above the Fora di Taggia and is one of the highest bridges in Europe. In the past it was famous for bungee jumping, an activity now banned.

The Loreto Bridge and the nearby Sanctuary

Canyoning in the Fora di Taggia[ back to menu ]

 

Thanks to the particular conformation of the territory, it is possible to practice canyoning in the Fora di Taggia. Canyoning, also called canyoning, is a sporting activity whereby one descends on foot the watercourses that flow inside the gorges carved into the rock, between fords and waterfalls.

As far as canyoning in the Fora di Taggia is concerned, the technical data on the signs show a route with a difference in height of 65 metres and a length of about 800 metres. Before plunging or embarking on the route, the weather conditions and water depth must be checked. Canyoning routes should always be approached with some experience and care, using ropes and suitable equipment.

 

Glimpse of Fora di Taggia

The Mauta Bridge[ back to menu ]

 

Not far from the Ponte di Loreto we find a much older bridge, the Ponte di Mauta. The bridge was used in ancient times: traces of human activity dating back to ancient times, some dating back to prehistoric times, have in fact been discovered in the Fora di Taggia gorges. In particular, some caves and cavities testify to the presence of man as early as the 3rd millennium B.C. and an important frequentation of these places in the Neolithic era.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto[ back to menu ]

 

Right next to the bridge is the sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, in the past also called Madonna del Ciapazzo, because of the slate rock on which it was built, or Nostra Signora delle Saline, because smugglers intent on going up the Argentina Valley to bring salt to Piedmont used to gather here.

Once the enemy raids by pirates were over, the church was enlarged as a votive offering to Our Lady, and dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto.

 

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