Italy-Piedmont-Bajo, the Occitan winter celebration
79 images Created 3 Mar 2013
Every five years in February (in 1217 it will be February 12, 19 and 23) the Alps of the Varaita Valley of Piedmont see an explosion of the near French Provence’s atmosphere, jackets, gaudy belts, improbable military uniforms softened with rosettes. It is the “Bahio”, one of the oldest alpine traditional festivals often mistakenly called Occitan Carnival. It’s story recalls the victory against the Saracens invaders that, more than thousand years ago, ravaged the southern Piedmont with raids from their bases on the French Riviera, but in reality it is a superposition of historical and ritual pre-Christian elements related to the cycle of death and rebirth of the seasons. A history lost in the mists of many centuries which children still learn by listening their grandparents, where in an increasingly challenged tradition even the female characters are played only by men. The “Bahio” overwhelms the Varaita Valley with the tune of violins, clarinets and accordions in a choral epic Occitan of complicated processions crossing the various villages to meet in the small capital of Sampeyre, where wrinkled gentlemen dressed as graceful Provencal girls dance traditional Occitan dances. The last day each “Bajio” judges the respective treasurer who attempted to run away with the money, so passionate processes that seem real but generally concluded by acquittal. Then costumes and swords go to sleep for another five years.