Triora is a medieval village once a crossroads of considerable importance for trade between Italy and France.
In 1587, bad weather and pitiful crops led to a famine, and the desperate residents of Triora, exhausted by the circumstances, needed to find a scapegoat for the errors committed by the landowners, who were the real culprits of the lack of food.
Soon they became convinced that only the work of witches could bring such misfortune, and the scapegoat was individuated by a really terrific witch hunt.
The Inquisitor of Genoa and Albenga and the priest Girolamo del Pozzo arrived and verified the local parliament’s suspicions.
During the Sunday Mass, the priest, intimately convinced of the presence of the “demon” among his parishioners, asked to the present to indicate what were the witches who infested the city.
Soon the first 20 women were rounded up, selected by the pointed fingers of parishioners that had been riled up during mass. 20 became 30 as the women were convinced through torture to name more of their Satanic sisters.
Between these 13 women, 4 young girls and a child declared themselves guilties, and 12 did not confess, even under torture.
All the accused were taken to private homes converted to prisons for the occasion. Among these it remains famous, even nowadays, “Casa del Meggio”, renamed “Ca ‘de Baggiure” (house of witches).
Following the torture two deaths occurred. The first was an anonymous woman who, by committing suicide, put an end to her suffering, while that of Isotta Stella, in her sixties, was a heavy death, because she belonged to the local small nobility.
Of course, lot of tensions on the streets of Triora: all the inhabitants who feared to be accused of witchcraft and spells, and the central government in Genoa, intimidated by the consequences of those deaths, decided to transfer the powers of the trials to the Chief Inquisitor who, however, did release only a 13-year-old girl, likely the daughter of someone important.
In June 1588 the situation precipitated: in fact was appointed commissioner for the inquisition Giulio de Scribani, who devoted himself to the capture of new witches. For him evidently was not enough Triora, and extended his research in neighboring cities, Sanremo and Castelvittorio. The officer sent the first 13 women to the jails of Genoa, and continued his search with the rooms of the houses to be filled again.
Scribani, who was to be seen as more terrible than the devil himself, quickly asked to send four women to the stake. After a first postponement due to insufficient evidence endorsed by Serafino Petrozzi, the trial resumed and the women were condemned, with the complicity of two other judges, Pietro Alaria Caracciolo and Giuseppe Torre.
Very little time before the execution, the Inquisitor of Genoa arrived in Triora, who stopped preparations for the execution and sent the four women to Genoa, together with the 13 previously captured. On 23 April 1589 the end of the witch trial was proclaimed, with two women dead and 34 unjustly tortured. But the end of these women remains a mystery. There’s conflicting reports on how the others fared, some accounts say they all burned eventually, some say they were imprisoned in Genoa until the Holy Office responded to requests to end the madness and set them free.
Today Triora remembers those terrible years, transforming the places of imprisonment and the alleged places of spells in tourist attractions. In the village, among the most beautiful in Italy, there is an Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum, dedicated to the area’s agricultural and rural history, but focusing on the trials and visited by thousands of visitors each year.
The museum contains artifacts from the trials, as well as reconstructions of the tortures and interrogations. Beyond the museum however, you’ll find signs of witchy workings all over town: witchy souvenirs, signs, statues, and even tours to the former homes of the accused, Monte delle Forche, the mountain where many met their fiery fate, and the alleged location of the baby-eating and Devil worshipping, the dreaded La Cabotina.