In the Ligurian hinterland, in the province of Imperia, at 765 meters above the valley of the Argentina stream, there is the small village of Triora, a historically very important place from a strategic, military and religious point of view. Located on the border of Piedmont, it had five fortresses, accessible through seven gates and its military force actively participated in the campaigns of the Republic of Genoa. The name, of Latin origin, means three mouths and refers to the three food resources produced locally: wheat, wine and chestnuts.
The village takes on the appearance it still preserves from the twelfth century, although the first settlements date back to the ninth and tenth centuries. From 1261, it became politically powerful and also a granary of the Republic of Genoa, due to the production of a particular type of grain, which is why the village is known as the City of Bread.
Triora has a beautiful historic center built with local stone and slate, once even exported to the United States.
It has a large number of churches, starting with the Collegiate Church, which houses real artistic masterpieces such as the panel depicting the Baptism of Christ of 1397, by Taddeo di Bartolo, and the two fifteenth century panels depicting the Pietà and the Ecce Homo, which are located on the sides of the main altar. The oratory houses the works that come from deconsecrated churches, but there is also a beautiful wooden altar made by Buscaglia, a local artist, and the paintings by Lorenzo Gastaldi, made at the end of the seventeenth century.
The church of San Bernardino is dedicated to the saint who arrived in the village in 1425 to preach. In the church, there is a cycle of frescoes representing the Passion and Death of Christ and the Last Judgment attributed to Giovanni Canavesio, painted between the second half of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century.
There are also two museums, the ethnographic one founded in 1983, which tells the customs and traditions of the Ligurian peasant civilization, and the one dedicated to witches, which preserves the instruments of torture and ancient documents concerning a long trial for witchcraft that took place in Triora.
The Witches of Triora
The village is above all known for the witchcraft trial that took place between 1587 and 1589 which involved many people, and even ended with the death of some of the accused women.
The summer of 1587 had been extraordinarily hot and had caused a famine that impoverished the inhabitants of the city. Most likely it was more of speculations on the price of flour that starved the poorest population, because hardly a year of poor harvests could have put the city in trouble. The council of elders met and attributed the responsibility for the famine to a group of women who lived in seclusion in the poorest quarter of the country, La Cabotina, and who knew the properties of medicinal herbs and popular medicine.
To shed light on the case, a priest was sent by the Holy Inquisition who, during a mass, described with fervor the atrocities committed by witches, such as having relations with the devil or cannibalism. The spirits of the population flared up to the point that, in a short time, the people accused of witchcraft became two hundred, in what was a real all-local witch hunt. In reality, it was an excuse for the families of Triora, poisoned by old grudges and personal hatreds, to wage war with each other. The Inquisition then sent a special commissioner and initially thirteen women were imprisoned, then six more plus a man, all accused of witchcraft and subsequently sent to the prisons of Genoa.
One of these women died under torture and another killed herself by throwing herself into the void, so the Republic of Genoa involved the Holy Office in Rome, which took two years to condemn the witches to abjuration. Meanwhile, five other women had died in prison in Genoa and seven in Triora. Although there was no burning of the bodies, like usual death sentences performed, the deaths were numerous and the trials ended with prison sentences.
The Naturalistic and Tourist Activities and Food and Wine Attractions
The first activity is certainly that of tourism. Triora is located in the Ligurian Alps Park, near the highest mountain in the region, Monte Saccarello, and in any case not far from the sea, given the long and narrow shape of Liguria. This allows, in a short time, to reach both the mountains and the coast. Cycle tourism is highly developed, and it is also possible to go horseback riding in the Nature Park. There are many animals that can be seen: wolves, chamois and many species of birds of prey and birds.
The community has now been reduced to a few hundred people, compared to the thousands of the past, but has been able to identify with its ancient traditions, including religious ones.
There are many events proposed during the year linked to the archaic culture of the place. In July, there is a festival linked to the wheat cycle, and on the second Sunday of October the Chestnut Festival is held, a fruit that fed the population of Triora for many centuries, especially during the Second World War when the economic conditions were difficult. Then there is the festival dedicated to witches, the Strigora, which is held in August and is celebrated with a traveling theater along the streets of the village.
The food and wine tradition is closely linked to local products. The pastas are simply made with water and flour (sometimes even chestnuts). The suggelli is the typical pasta of Triora and Realdo, a very beautiful village in the surrounding area, even more perched on the mountains. It has a shape that is a cross between a dumpling and an orecchietta and the name derives from the seal imprinted with the finger to give the shape. It is seasoned with a local ricotta fermented several times, the Bruzzo, which can be from sheep, goat but also cow and then with garlic and milk.
Among the soups is the Grano Pestao, that is, crushed wheat peeled from the bran and cooked with spring onion, leeks and lard, and the Triora bean soup, white-looking legumes with a thin skin. Bread is of great importance in the gastronomic culture of the countryside, Triora having been the granary of the Republic of Genoa. It is one of the best breads in Italy, made with soft wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. Its peculiarity derives from the water and local ingredients, but above all, from the leavening on wooden boards covered with bran which gives a greater fragrance to the bread during the cooking process. Then there is the seasonal processing, such as that of dried mushrooms, or Ciccotto, a little known but very good local mushroom that is preserved in oil. Given the proximity to the mountain pastures, there are numerous cheeses, such as the exquisite brigasca sheep toma, a slow food presidium with a sweet and intense flavor. It is cooked in the oven with spring onions, mountain potatoes and tomatoes. Then there is a unique rustic pizza, called torta, prepared with potatoes, beets and zucchini, cooked on a tripod placed on the grill. In Triora, saffron is also grown. The desserts are almost all linked to the production of mountain honey, such as the Cubaita, a typical Christmas cake, made of hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and mountain honey, pressed into two wafers made of flour and water. Two excellent local wines are also produced in Triora, the red Ormeasco and the white E Bunde.