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Canavese. A region with colourful historical re-enactments and festivals 

Thursday, 12 May 2022 11:35
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In the Canavese, a region with colourful historical re-enactments and festivals, the Middle Ages exert an intense fascination. This area, within the metropolitan city of Turin in Italy’s north-western Piedmont region, brings back a long-lost world of chivalrous rituals, magic beliefs, the arcane powers of herbs and the society and customs of the Middle Ages. 

Equestrian jousts, tournaments, minstrels and jugglers

Many towns and villages in the Canavese hold on to these vestiges of the past with festivals and re-enactments where history is reconstructed philologically, traditions reinvented imaginatively and events and characters from long ago are brought to life. The younger generation learns the ancient tradition of fencing using heavy swords with two hands, others favour the bow and crossbow, while others partake in colourful and hard-fought equestrian jousts and tournaments. Torch-lit taverns recreate ancient recipes and minstrels and jugglers entertain the crowds of locals and visitors who flock to see these events. 

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Historical carnivals and ancient traditions

Every May the Canavese celebrates the Ides of Oglianico and the Tournament at King Arduino's Court in Cuorgnè, as well as historical re-enactments in Pavone, Sparone, Rocca and San Benigno Canavese and many carnivals.  Like the historic carnival of Ivrea with its battle of the oranges and the re-enactment of the Preda in Dora which consists of throwing a fragment of stone from the walls of the remains of the Marquis of Monferrato's castle into the Dora river as a vow of freedom, and with  the presence of the Abbà a reminder of the role played by the abbots of the ancient religious abbeys. The myth of the vexatious miller’s wife who rebels against the tyrant's ius primae noctis and starts the popular uprising is also an imaginative evocation of a popular revolt that took place in the Canavese in the second half of the 14th century. The historic carnival of Castellamonte focuses on another female figures, a popular revolt featuring Countess Isabella di Montebello who, having survived the destruction of the castle, is acclaimed as the Bela Pignatera and carried in triumph by the people in revolt.

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canavese-traditions

The Ides of May in Oglianico

In Oglianico the annual Calendimaggio (May Day) and Ides of May festivities hark back to customs of ancient Celtic culture and later to those of the Roman and medieval days. Joy for the reawakening of nature after the long winter months is expressed in songs, dances and rituals that propitiate fertility, and the abundance of harvests culminates in the raising of the Maggio, a tree planted in the centre of the village by torchlight, amidst the waving of flags, the roll of drums and the blare of trumpets.  The rediscovery in the municipal statutes of 1352 of characters and moments of daily life in the 14th century inspired the Oglianico re-enactment that promotes ancient crafts with the reconstruction of traditional equipment. The medieval past of the town is the subject of in-depth studies and documentary research by the Oglianico Historical Group, and the 40th edition of the historical re-enactment got into full swing on Sunday 1 May, when the cry Vivat Savoia et populus! resounded through the streets to announce the start of the May Day celebrations. 

3Torneo di maggio a Cuorgne 1

02102019 cuorgne due torri panoramaThe May Tournament at the Court of King Arduino in Cuorgnè

This re-enactment dates back to May 1987 and is held in the splendid mediaeval historic centre of Cuorgnè, home to the House of Arduino, a handsome richly decorated Gothic palace with terracotta friezes that belonged to an Arduino and not to the Marquis of Ivrea who was King of Italy in 1002.  The event is based on the historical siege of Sparone in 1004, imaginatively assuming that on his return Arduino was festively welcomed by the village of Cuorgnè, which organized a tournament in  the king’s honour with singing, dancing, entertainment and abundant libations.  After two years of stoppage due to the pandemic the Cuorgnè event returns this year. It is very popular, with hundreds of people in costume, and the streets of the historic centre lit by torches and draped in the colours of the boroughs. The event has changed over time but includes a number of constants, such as the Corsa delle Botti race on the Friday, the arrival of the royal procession on the Saturday, and the tournament on the Sunday with the challenge between the boroughs at the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

Locals partake in games of skill dressed in historical costumes 

The ancient challenge included a hard-fought equestrian tournament, now replaced by other games of skill such as the drum race, the canapo pull, the gran passo relay and the corsa delle biulantine. Over time, the tournament has featured many different types of theatrical performances even staging Giuseppe Verdi's opera 'Il Trovatore' in 1996. What makes Cuorgnè's festival so special is the enthusiasm and participation of the locals, who put on historical dress and parade to the sound of the TroTa Trombe e Tamburi Reali trumpets and royal drums.  




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