The Witch Trials
Il Processo alle Streghe
Cavalese (Trentino-Alto Adige region)
An evocative reenactment of the witches’ trials that took place in the Alpine valleys of Northern Italy at the dawn of the 16th century. Every year in the first days of January Cavalese, a beautiful mountain gem nestled between the unique eerie crags of the Dolomites, hosts one of the most original and fascinating, though tragic and dark, Italian historical events...
Geographical, cultural and historical context
The event takes place in the old town and in the woods of Cavalese, a beautiful and renowned all-year-round resort in the Fiemme Valley, the "gateway to the Dolomites" and one of the most beautiful valleys of Trentino-Alto Adige region, about 65 km from Trento, in Northern Italy. Cavalese, the historical and administrative centre of Val di Fiemme, is located on a plateau surrounded by magnificent pine forests. Stretched over a fluvial-glacial terrace it slightly slants downwards where the Fiemme Valley opens up. Cavalese is appreciated not only for the amazing Winter skiing season, but also during the Summertime thanks to its evocative scenery and tranquillity, and a wealth of highlights for the visitors, including mountain walks, horseback and mountain-bike rides.
The territory became the infamous site of significant witchcraft activities, and consequently witch-hunt during the 16th and 17th centuries as today still witnessed by several landmarks, local legends and traditions, as well as by official reports and chronicles from the trials held then, especially in the period between 1500 and 1505. About 30 of the valley’s women were accused of witchcraft. Six of them managed to escape before being arrested. Of the people jailed, 18 were tried, condemned to the stake and burnt alive, while four did not survive the prison time.
Event description and programme
Every year, in January, Cavalese commemorates the sad events which occurred at the beginning of 1500, taking inspiration and historical background from the original reports of the local witch trials. In the evening, at 9.00 pm, the alleged witches are taken out from jails and brought in "public square" in front of the Palace of The Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme, to be questioned by the Inquisition court. After the reading of the charges, an historical parade with many characters in accurate period costume moves towards the Parco della Pieve, a green area with linden trees, once the site devoted to the community meetings. In the middle of the park there is the "Banco della Reson", the Bench of Justice: a round table set in stone with a central depression for the voting procedure with special balls. All the local disputes have been always discussed and resolved around the table.
The witches are tied to the trees surrounding this old meeting site, while all the main characters gather there: the "Scario" (judge), with the four "Giurati" (members of the jury), the "Vicario" (the religious representative), the "Capitano" (the Captain), the "Notaio" (the Notary), and the "Saltari" (the other witnesses). The trial of witchcraft is celebrated with great solemnity, developing in the debate between the judges and the alleged witches through allegations and evidences faithfully reproducing the original records and chronicles preserved until today. The trial ends with the final conviction to the large stake in the heart of the park. The stake represents a symbolic fire and the Committee in charge of the organization of the historical reenactment invites the audience to throw in their own "witches", the dangers and fears of our modern time.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Cavalese Town Council
Address: Via F.lli Bronzetti, 2 - 38033 Cavalese (Trento), Italy
Tel.: +39 0462 237511 - Fax: +39 0462 237550
Visit Fiemme - Val di Fiemme Tourist Office / APT Val di Fiemme
Address: via F.lli Bronzetti, 60 - 38033 Cavalese (Trento), Italy
Tel.: +39 0462 241111
Visit Trentino Official tourism infopage of Trentino
by Trentino Marketing S.r.l.
Address: via Romagnosi 11, 38122 Trento, Italy
Address: via Pasqualine, 30 - 38030 Daiano (Trento), Italy
Image: APT Val di Fiemme
Text sources: Cavalese Town Council, Wikipedia, Visit Fiemme, APT Val di Fiemme, Visit Trentino.
Cavalese on Google Maps:
Video reportages from the event: