Discovering Dolceacqua and its Legends with a glass of wine and a michetta

Lucia Gaggero | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Dolceacqua which literally means Sweet Water, it’s the name of this beautiful Middle Ages village in the Ligurian backcountry. There are different versions telling where its name come from, however it’s sure that it was alteration in the old Italian language and nothing to do with the water, but apparently more related to the nice people nature. It’s also one of the first villages you’ll find when you leave the coast and you drive towards the mountains in the Ligurian backcountry, it’s really a lovely village with its typical Ligurian narrow houses under the castle and its picturesque bridge above the Nervia river.

It’s true that often when we talk about castle we think about ghosts and Liguria Ponente is a little bit like Scotland, it’s full of ruins, ghosts and mysteries. In Dolceacqua our ghost is a lady, Lucrezia, also called ‘La dama bianca” “The White Lady”, due to her dress. The story tells that in the 1300 there was a terrible and tyrannical count in the Doria Castle who introduced back the “ius primae noctis”law, “right of the first night” that refers to a supposed legal right in medieval time allowing feudal lords to have sexual relations with subordinate women at their wedding first night. Lucrezia in love with a man called Basso, didn’t want to spend her first wedding night with the evil count so, they decided to get married in secret. However, because of the noises of the festivity, the guards found them and took her to the the castle. Lucrezia refused to sleep with him and resisted with all means, she even tried to kill herself by jumping out if the widow of the count's bedroom, so the sovereign in anger closed her in the castle’s prisons thinking that she would had soon changed her mind. But it wasn’t the case, Lucrezia a really strong woman, let her die of starvation. While all the village was mourning her death, Basso furious with the count, one night, sneaked into the castle and went into the count bedroom, pointed a knife at his throat and obliged him to write a new law in which he abolished the “right of the first night”. The day after all the village was shared between the sadness of the death of Lucrezia and the happiness of the new law giving more freedom to the women. Because of that, the women of the village decided to create a dessert in Lucrezia's honour to remind her forever and to thank her, because of her sacrifice now they were all free.

The famous dessert is called Michetta, it’s a delicious brioche, like a sweet roll, Dolceacqua is the only village where you can find it and it's still well know in the neighbourhood. The peculiar thing about this dessert is it's name, why women that day call it Michetta? Because in dialect it the name michetta refers to a precise female body part. The story tells that the women of the village that day of 16th of August 1300, decided to shape it as much as possible as a female vagina, while singing “Omi, au, a michetta a damu a chi vuremu nui” (Ligurian dialect) what means: “Men, now our Michetta, we are giving it to whom we want to” So, I suppose I do not have to tell you what michetta means in Dolceaqua’s dialect and why it's so popular.

Since that day the 16th of august is the Michetta festivity day all over the narrow roads of Dolceacqua, where you can enjoy a good glass of Rossese, the local produced red wine, while savouring the special dessert.

But, even if the story ends here with a happy ending, it’s also here where the mystery begins. Apparently it is told that since that day in 1300 the ghost of Lucrezia is hunting the castle and you can hear her singing during the night. My sister told me that one night last year, she went up to the castle with some friends, because they knew a way to get in from behind it. They split in two groups one stayed outside the walls of the ruin and the other got in, she was walking in the ruins with her friends and were about to leave when they heard someone singing, she told me that she immediately thought that someone was doing them a joke so she said out loud “Who’s there? Isn’t funny!” and suddenly the voice stopped and a acute loud scream resounded filling the air inside the ruins of the castle. They were so scared that they run out immediately and just on the other side of the broken wall, they met the other guys patiently waiting who didn’t hear anything at all. Last time I was with her, I asked if she could come with me back to the castle at night, because I was curious to see, but since that night she refuses to approach it…

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