The barma d’Aout Fairies – Vallone degli Invincibili, Villar Pellice

Hi there!
Today I’m back in high Pellice Valley because I want to take you to a famous place that once used to be the fairies’ home.
We are at Barma d’Aout, and under this kind of rock many people found refuge: shepherds, partisans, and, even earlier, the Waldensian rebels that took up arms and came to hide in these peaks in order to escape persecution. This area is still known as “the Great Valley of the Invincibles”, because they were never caught.

Barma d'Aout, 1508 m - Vallone degli Invincibili, Bobbio Pellice
Barma d’Aout, 1508 m – Vallone degli Invincibili, Villar Pellice

This “barma” (this term is probably of Ligurian origin, and it refers to caves and rock shelters), according to the legend, was home of some shepherd fairies who used to live here with their flocks of goats and their prosperous cows. They were very hard-working maids, who personally grazed animals and worked in milking and its subsequent processing. They were very good-hearted women and for this, since they liked the shepherds who lived nearby, they had taught them all of the tricks to get butter, cheese and ricotta cheese from milk.


They were very particular fairies, always dressed in a simple and practical way, unlike their sisters called “the lazy fairs”, who loved to dress up in clothes with long trains and gleaming jewels.
They did not fear humans and helped the poor by bringing them always good food; they liked laughing and joking with the lads … But when someone ever dared to ask for their hand in marriage, they immediately ran away laughing, smiling and graceful.
The luckiest ones had also been allowed to visit their neat and clean homes, and to see all their silver and gold tools.

A “barma” is a characteristic type of cave dug in a slope with a big rock as roof
A “barma” is a characteristic type of house dug in a slope with a big rock as roof

A painful day, unfortunately, a shepherd (embittered by the fact of being rejected by the fairy he had fallen for), rancorous climbed the rock and sneaked in the cave while the fairies were outside with their flocks to pasture. The young man knew that nothing would made the fairies suffer more than discovering the theft of their precious tools. So he filled his bag with everything he could find and fled.


You can’t even imagine how the fairies felt sorry when, returning home, they saw all of their beautiful things messed up … and when they realized that the tools they were so proud of had been stolen!
In that moment they decided that they would immediately go away and that they’d never turn back. Before going away, however, they cried out to the shepherds who had rushed over to the sound of their screams and their cries:
“You stole our precious tools and we will never forgive you! We’re going to leave this beautiful valley, but you’ll have to worry as well: we taught you how to get good and nutrient butter and cheese from buttermilk; these are things that are very useful to feed yourselves and your children during the long winter! Well, we might have taught you how to obtain honey and wax, but it is a secret that we will store for ourselves … ”
After saying that, they went away, and never returned again.
That secret has remained till the present day, since even nowadays shepherds, not knowing how to use it, throw away the milk whey…


How to get here:
Before entering in the centre of Bobbio Pellice, turn right just before a bridge following the directions to “borgata Subiasco, Bessè”. Go straight to the Bessè hamlet, where you’ll be able to leave your car.
Traversing another fragment of paved road, you’ll find on your left the directions towards the Vallone degli Invincibili. You’ll reach Barma d’Aout in more or less 2 hours walking on a mule track marked with the number 128.

Do you want to read the tale in Italian ?

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