History of the Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum
The work of Father Francesco Ferraironi
The older inhabitants of Triora still remember the cultural and popular exhibition that was held in the oratory of San Giovanni Battista in Triora on 15 August 1960, organised by Father Francesco Ferraironi, an unforgettable character who literally fell in love with his native village. In a pamphlet written in 1961 by the same priest, all the exhibits appear divided into 12 sections.
There was really everything, from common utensils to agricultural and handicraft tools, from paintings to photographs, from maps to historical documents, from minerals to slate or marble relics, without neglecting anything, not even objects “of little value and interest” and toys donated by children. This was done “to satisfy the goodwill of those who had lent them”. The very title of the booklet commemorating the incredible exhibition. The Wealth of a Poor Village in Liguria, is an indication of the thoughts and wishes of the organiser: to offer visitors authentic testimonies of past life, so that their memory would remain forever.
Father Ferraironi’s death in 1963 was a great loss to the village, and today more than ever we realise how important his work and research had been.
The administrators of the time decided to continue his work by creating a permanent museum.
“Il Campo Eco” and the birth of the museum
It was only at the beginning of the 1980s, thanks above all to the passion of the mayor at the time, Luigi Capponi, Triora’s municipal secretary for decades and a lover of history and popular traditions, that the idea took shape again. The Liguria Region provided a contribution, granted later; the Associazione Turistica Pro Triora (Tourist Association Pro Triora) collected a first series of objects from the locals and temporarily stored them in a room in the old town hall.
In the summer of 1983, thanks to the enthusiasm of some young people from Genoa taking part in Campo Eco, organised by the Department of Educational Institutions of the Municipality of Genoa, these objects, together with many others found locally, were properly placed in the various rooms of the building.
The students Marina Posti, Armando Buffoni and the teacher Paolo Ansaldo, a lover of rural history, with the help of many children, managed to involve the local inhabitants, some of whom volunteered their services.
The various exhibits, accompanied by explanatory cards, were grouped by subject in the various rooms, while the local history, made up of renunciations and sacrifices, but humanly rich and worthy of being handed down, was gradually rewritten.
Pro Triora association and the museum today
The Tourist Association Pro Triora, which always collaborated with the Genoese boys, weaving friendly relationships that survive today, ideally gathered the witness and in close collaboration with the Municipality of Triora, took care of the management and custody of the museum.
With the new interest aroused in 1987 by the National Conference promoted by the Municipality of Triora and the University of Genoa on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the witchcraft trials, new rooms were set up in the basement of the building, where the prisons used to be.
Constant improvements and modernisation are carried out every year, thanks above all to the enthusiasm of Silvano Oddo, a former town councillor and very active councillor of Pro Triora, who has taken over as director of the museum.
The Tourist Association Pro Triora
Founded on 12 August 1965 thanks to the willingness, enthusiasm and love for their land of people from different social backgrounds but united by the love for their land, the Associazione Turistica Pro Triora (Tourist Association Pro Triora) immediately dedicated itself with enthusiasm to the organisation of a number of events to brighten up the long summers and maintain the old traditions. Examples are the holiday-maker’s festival, the Ferraironi bicycle race, judo exhibitions and band and music concerts.
After a few years of “running-in”, on 18th April 1974 in Arma di Taggia, by deed of the notary Dario Vietri of Ventimiglia, the association was legally constituted by seven people, with the aim of contributing to the tourist development of the Municipality, both by organising events and by promoting the necessary embellishment and improvements, highlighting the natural, artistic and monumental beauties, in order to make them better known and appreciated.
Under the presidency first of the hotelier Silvio Pastor, then of the brothers Sergio and Luigi Coldebella, and finally of Michele Figaia and Roberto Faraldi, the Pro Triora has carried out, over the years, important interventions for the improvement of the locality, such as the laying of plaques, the arrangement and cleaning of streets, the maintenance of artistic and architectural emergencies. Important events have been organised at local and national level, such as photographic competitions, running races (especially the “Circuito 5 fortezze”), sports competitions of all kinds, exhibitions of paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc., and music concerts, sometimes in close collaboration with the Municipality of Triora. There were also, of course, initiatives aimed at pure enjoyment, such as dance evenings, treasure hunts, charity raffles, children’s games and so on. A bowling alley was set up and a youth room furnished with furniture, books, magazines, television, table football, a table tennis table and much more.
A very important turning point in the association’s decades-long history occurred on 10 January 1990, when it was entered in the register of printers and publishers under No. 1/1990. Since then, many books on local culture and history have been published, ranging from traditions to folk medicine, from architectural beauties to woodcarvings, from gastronomic specialities to medieval village guides, and finally to the history and legends of witches. Thanks to the intuition of some members and councillors of the Pro Triora association, the famous witch trials in the Trio area, which led to six poor women being burnt at the stake in 1588, were literally rediscovered. In 1988, in order to examine all the problems connected with magic and witchcraft, the fourth centenary of the event was organised in close collaboration with the Municipality, and the local museum was strengthened, dedicating a special section to these women in the old prisons in the basement of the building, displaying documents and photographs and enriching it year after year with valuable texts on the subject. The museum is considered one of the “jewels in the crown” of the Pro Triora association, which has managed the opening of the museum practically from the start, currently open every day of the year, as well as its management, care, development and propaganda.
This has been followed by other conventions and events related to witchcraft: not only conventions or conferences, but also ad hoc events such as “Strigòra, a day with the witches of Triora”, which attracts a large audience every year. This unique event has also been joined by the “Halloween night”, with which Pro Triora has always actively collaborated.
Other important initiatives have also been organised over the years, some of which still take place today, such as the market-exhibition of local products, the chestnut festival and above all the mushroom festival, which attracts many enthusiasts and gourmets. Thanks to the willingness of some members and volunteers, visits to the main churches and monuments of the place have been organised, including ad hoc routes through the historic centre.
It should be pointed out that, in order to carry out the events, the Pro Triora set up a duly equipped kitchen in the “La strega” cultural centre, which was upgraded and adapted from every point of view. Other work has also been carried out in the Boschetto, in particular the installation of a stage for the orchestra and a wooden kiosk-bar, which fits in perfectly with the environment.
An important place has always been given to traditional festivities, the origins of which are lost in the darkness of the centuries: St. Zane’s Eve, with the lighting of the bonfire and the free distribution of stuffed onions, Christmas Eve, with the arrival of Santa’s sleigh full of gifts for the children, and other occasional events. Finally, the Sunday before Christmas is dedicated to the Municipality’s elderly, who are offered a free lavish lunch and spend a few happy hours there.
For the last twenty years a quarterly newsletter, “Le stagioni di Triora”, has been sent to all members and friends of Triora and of the upper Argentina valley, making them aware of the happy and sad events that take place in the places where they have left a piece of their heart.