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Triora's Dark Past
By Anthony Parente
Triora is a picturesque town located on the Italian-French border in the province of Imperia within the region of Liguria. This ancient town, which is thought to be one of the oldest villages in Liguria, rests on the southern slope of the Ligurian Alps and is almost entirely in the valle Argentina (Argentina valley) area. What makes this place special is that it is an elite member of I Borghi Piú Belli d'Italia (The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy), which lists the top 100 beautiful medieval citadels in Italy and it is a winner of the Bandiere Arancione (Orange Flag) from the Touring Club Italia. This is awarded to small towns in Italy for excellence in tourism, hospitality and the environment.
The town's name comes from the Latin words tria and ora, which means three mouths. In keeping with that theme in the center of the coat of arms is the mythical Cerberus who is the three headed hell hound that guards the gates to the underworld for Hades.
Even though it is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy there was a time when Triora was called the Salem of Italy. In 1587, in the midst of the Italian Renaissance, Triora was devastated with a famine. A scapegoat was needed and the town elders insisted this must be the work of the bagiue (Ligurian dialect for witches). They pointed to a place just on the outskirts of town called the Cabotina, which was the poorest area of town, as the place where the women would meet to worship the devil and conduct their secret meetings. The town sought help from Genoa and a vicar of the inquisition was sent and to no one's surprise agreed that this was in fact the work of black magic. What ensued was one of the worst witch trials to take place in Italy. Mobs of people accusing these women of everything from causing the famine to sacrificing babies to the devil. The accused were gathered and brutally tortured in some cases to their death. Others were burned at the stake. Many were imprisoned unsure of what plans the inquisition had in store for them. It was a very dark time that lasted nearly three years. The methods used were highly unethical and came under protest citing how the accused had no form of due process. Finally, the Holy Office intervened and stopped the madness that swept through this town. Triora became the last place in Italy during the Renaissance that witch trials were conducted.
Detailed accounts of what took place were kept and they are located in the Museo Regionale Etnografico e della Stregoneria (the Regional Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum) in Triora. The basement of this building used to be the town prison and it is here that you will find a section dedicated to witchcraft. There are even models recreating scenes from this dark time. Throughout the town you can see signs, statues and shops selling witch trinkets and souvenirs. The people do not try to hide from their past. Instead they embrace it. Perhaps it is a way to remember those who died. A way to show people that even during the darkest of times you can overcome and transform into something beautiful.
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