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Are you brave enough to visit this old witch town?

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Despite its charming appearance, many years ago Triora was home to the brutal murders of women and children throughout the late 16th century.

A quaint little town sitting at the foot of the Trono Mountain and overlooking the luscious Argentina valley, Triora is a picturesque village in north-western Italy, very close to the French border. Its beautiful setting and its notably well-preserved 12th-century architecture make it a characteristically wondrous, medieval Italian citadel.

What differentiates it from the rest, however, is its infamous label as the Salem of Europe. Referring of course to the witch craze that swept over the western world between the 16th and 18th centuries, Triora was allegedly the site of the last witch trials ever held in Italy during the Renaissance period. 

The witch craze of the early modern period made people believe that Satanic witches, worshippers of the Devil himself, were scheming for the demise of Christendom. The moral panic that took over meant people, mostly women, were being accused left and right of being witches, and were trialled for these crimes.Poor weather in 1587 led to a crop shortage and subsequent famine in Triora; its inhabitants became certain that this could only be the work of witches. Before action could be taken, people’s claims had to be validated, so the local government called for the help of the priest Girolamo del Pozzo and the Inquisitor of Genoa and Albenga in determining whether events had indeed been caused by

Poor weather in 1587 led to a crop shortage and subsequent famine in Triora; its inhabitants became certain that this could only be the work of witches. Before action could be taken people’s claims had to be validated, so the local government called for the help of the priest Girolamo del Pozzo and the Inquisitor of Genoa and Albenga in determining whether events had indeed been caused by maleficent witches. The two men confirmed suspicions and soon the first accused women began to be rounded up.

An estimated 30 women were accused of witchcraft and thereby tortured in order to extract confessions and the names of more ‘witches’ they had collaborated with. Unusually, compared to Europe’s track record concerning witch trials, several of the accused were noble or women from influential families.Before the trials themselves had even begun, one woman had succumbed from the torture, and another had committed suicide by jumping out a window. At least four women were tied to the stake and burned alive, despite the deeply questionable manner in which the confessions were obtained, an objection held even by those in government. Stories vary as to whether all those accused were eventually burned at the stake, or whether they were imprisoned until they were later set free by the Holy Office.

Before the trials themselves had even begun, one woman had succumbed from the torture, and another had committed suicide by jumping out a window. At least four women were tied to the stake and burned alive, despite the deeply questionable manner in which the confessions were obtained - an objection held even by those in government. Stories vary as to whether all those accused were eventually burned at the stake, or whether they were imprisoned until they were later set free by the Holy Office.

Either way, this macabre though fascinating history makes Triora a must-see tourist stop for all. The folklore shrouding this little town makes it the ideal location for a number of horror-themed events and festivals. It hosts three festivals annually, the August summer witchcraft festival, the mushroom festival in September and Halloween, as well as a number of smaller fairs held throughout the year, all with similar themes of witchcraft.

The town’s most popular museum is the Ethnographic Museum of Witchcraft, which reconstructs the records of the famous 1588 trials, commemorating an event still much discussed by historians and other academics and that has been compared in importance to the American witch trials in Salem. The town seems to thrive off its unusual and gruesome past, featuring witch shops, signs, statues, and other vestiges all around, and offers a number of guided ‘ghost tours’.

Of course, the town also boasts great cultural and artistic heritage, beautiful architecture, and delicious local breads and cheeses. However, it is its rich and sombre history that sets Triora apart from other, similar Italian towns, and makes it such a point of interest for those who find themselves enthralled by old tales of witchcraft and captivated by early modern European histories.

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