Baìo of Sampeyre
One of the most traditional feasts celebrated every 5 years
The Baìo (also known as Baio of Sampeyre) is a traditional festival that takes place every five years in the municipality of Sampeyre, in the Varaita Valley (province of Cuneo, Piedmont). The “Baìo di Sampeyre” is one of the most important and ancient traditional festivals in the Italian Alps.,celebrated in the days of Carnival. The festival usually takes place in February.
The Baìo’s origin goes back before than 1000, when Saracens invaders (traditionnally people coming from Souther Mediterranean Sea) were driven away by the native population. The feast was created to commemorates this victory.
Today the Baio of Sampeyre takes place on two Sundays and it ends on the final Thursday before Lent (the day celebrated as Fat Thursday).
The Baìo is composed of four parades (or “armies”), coming from Sampeyre (Piasso) and its three hamlets: Rore (Rure), Calchesio (Chucheis), and Villar (Vilà). Traditionally, only men participated in the parades, while the complicated costumes were woven by the women. The men traditionally interpreted also the roles of women.
The Baìo feast has a very strict and traditional format:
On the first Sunday, the Baio of Calchesio visits the Baio of Sampeyre and of Abà (heads of the festival), and they greet each other by crossing their swords.
On the second Sunday there’s a parade to the square where the four Baio groups meet and dance.
On Fat Thursday, the inhabitants celebrate a particular process during which the communities judge their Treasurers accused of theft to community damage.
One of the most important protagonists in Baìo of Sampeyre festival is dance.
The Valle Varaita is in fact an important centre for the maintenance and rediscovery of Occitan traditions. They maintained many traditional dances and folklore as well as music. The sounds of violins, accordions, organs, clarinets and hurdy-gurdy (sonsaina in Occitan) are heard during traditional dances such as courento, gigo, courento di custiole, countradanso, tresso, bureo of San Martin, bureo vieìo, and others.
(Foto di Carlo Rosso e Enrico Ruggeri)