A Druid festival at the Terrace of the Alps

Festa dei Druidi

Druids in Liguria? Despite Italy’s pagan history, it was the last thing I expected to see while touring hilltop towns – villaggi or paesini arroccati – near the italo-french border. Perched 910 meters above sea level, I had read that Bajardo (pop. 347) was the highest village in Liguria, but I wasn’t aware of the Festa dei Druidi in July. Held on grounds surrounding the ruins of the church of San Nicolò, we stumbled upon this event by chance. Bajardo is regarded as the ‘Terrace of the Alps’, and the lofty location made a great setting for a druid celebration complete with mock fights, a warrior dance, sacred fire, and even a celtic wedding ceremony.

San Nicolo

Ancient ruins of San Nicolò. This used to be a place of worship for celtic priests before the Romans muscled in. Now it’s a refuge for stray cats and open-ceiling events. Tragedy struck in 1887 when the roof collapsed during an earthquake, killing 202 parish members. It was such an odd (and I have to say pretty cool) sensation to be standing inside, while outside druid drums beat to a solemn rhythm.

Castel Vittorio

View of Castel VittorioCastel Vittorio. One of many hilltop villages in the area and a quick drive up from our b&b in Pigna (left). We had a gorgeous view of it right outside our balcony. From Castel Vittorio, the road continues on to Bajardo.

WARNING: if you’re not comfortable with tight, winding, and badly maintained country roads, forget about driving from Castel Vittorio to Bajardo. Turn around and access Bajardo via Apricale. The route is longer and winding as well, but it’s better maintained and wider (well sort of) for 2 cars to pass.

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6 thoughts on “A Druid festival at the Terrace of the Alps

  1. Seascent

    Thank you for the warning on the road conditions! The place actually looks intriguing and I was wondering if there was a chance of going until I saw your last paragraph. Nope, tight, winding roads ain’t our idea of fun!

    I still recall how sick I got when we visited Australia’s Great Ocean Road and those roads were well-maintained!

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    1. Rowena Post author

      Those wretched roads are still something that makes me nervous whenever we travel around Italy. A shame that there are just so much of them that lead to all of the out-of-the-way places.

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    1. Rowena Post author

      Hana! Very close! A good thing that we encountered only a couple of cars along the way, and at spots where we could squeeze by without falling off the mountain. Never again!

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