Santa Margherita – Torre Pellice

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Hello my friends!
Today we are in Santa Margherita, a suburb of Torre Pellice, and I want to take you for a very unusual walk in some places round here… So I can tell you about a very ancient (and now lost) habit, which was typical of the Val Pellice and which used to take place right on March, 21st.

Coppieri hamlet
Coppieri hamlet

Late in the evening young people from Torre Pellice used to meet at Coppieri hamlet and, pretending to be in a joyful parade and singing triumphal songs, they would walk up to the village center bringing with them a straw puppet with the aspect of an old woman with her arms hanging down and her head bent to the great weight of years.
The procession moved along the road known today as “Viale Dante” and reached Santa Margherita, followed by children and people singing:

“A la Tour a iè ‘na veia, ouehi, oh!
‘na veia sensa dent, ‘na veia sensa dent!”

(“in Torre Pellice there’s an old woman, yes, oh yes / an old toothless woman, an old toothless woman!”)

Viale Dante
Viale Dante

Once on the small square of Santa Margherita the puppet, called “la veia” (the old woman), was burnt among the shouts and songs of happiness of all.
“La veia”, in fact, represented the winter and the bad weather, and this ritual was celebrated on March, 21st because that day is the beginning of spring and means the end of the long cold winter.

Santa Margherita
Santa Margherita

But do not think of this as a sad or bad party just because the poor old lady was burnt!
The origins of this ritual, which takes place also in other regions of Northern Italy, are lost in the mists of time: the first ones who used to light fires and holy bonfires at the end of winter to celebrate the end of the hardest time of the year (because in winter people suffered from cold and hunger), were even people who lived here before the arrival of the Romans … they were the ones who started this tradition of “burnin’ the old woman” as a time to forget the hardships of winter and as a good omen for the new season, symbol of life and rebirth, which was starting .
This population (of Ligurian origins) lived here more than 2500 years ago and this Valleys are still home to some rock engravings made in the past… Are you curious ? Well, I’ll take you there very soon!

How to get here
reach and pass the town of Torre Pellice (To) moving along the Provincial Road 161 . Once in front of the Waldensian Hospital, take the first road to the right, known as Via Copperi: that’s where the procession with the “veia” used to move from. Go back down the road and walk back along the Provincial Road 161 towards Torre Pellice, take Via Roma across the town and then move all the way long Viale Mazzini, then you will find Viale Dante Alighieri on your left. Finally the procession reached Santa Margherita; you can follow Viale Dante Alighieri for its entire length, and turning left at its end you will find the little square where the “veia” would be set on fire.

 

 

 

Do you want to read the tale in Italian ?