Dolceacqua, its fireworks and the Michetta

Art & Culture

In Dolceacqua, a wonderful village of the Val Nervia, August is the month of history and legends. The Michetta, a typical sweet of the town which has obtained the Denonimazione Comunale (Deco-Municipality title), has a secular tradition dating back to the mid-fourteenth century. The Lord of Dolceacqua, who resided in the castle that still overlooks the village, at the time was Imperiale Doria, a tyrant who was greatly hated by the people of that village and of the neighbouring villages, because he used to raid the towns of the valley taking possession of their belongings, including animals… and women. In Dolceacqua he granted very few rights to the people, demanded high taxes and applied the “droit de seigneur”, a law that gave him power over the livestock, the assets and the wives of his subjects.

According to the legend, Imperiale Doria fell in love with Lucrezia, the daughter of the baker in the village, but she loved another man. The Lord of Dolceacqua, having heard of the impending marriage of the beautiful damsel, claimed the right to spend the wedding night with her.

Lucrezia was horrified by the idea so she secretly married her beloved, but once the thugs of Imperiale discovered this, they kidnapped the young bride and locked her in the dungeons of the castle. The poor husband, desperate and determined to save her, roused the population against the lord of the Doria house and, hidden among the hay in one of the wagons going to the castle, managed to sneak in and reach Imperiale’s private rooms.

By threatening him with a knife, the young man managed to get him to sign a paper that relieved citizens from his taxes, granted them increased rights and, most of all abolished forever the droit de seigneur. The joy of this “coup d’etat”, however, was saddened by the discovery of the lifeless body of Lucrezia. The women of Dolceacqua, to celebrate the freedom obtained thanks to her sacrifice, created a sweet bread with a very feminine shape to which they gave the name of “Michetta”.

That achievement is still celebrated today as in fact the anniversary of 16th August has been <the day of Michetta> for more than seven centuries. So, the young men of the village, followed by a small musical band and two donkeys, walk and sing between Dolceacqua’s cellars and alleyways until they reach the houses of their beloved in the hope of receiving <the Michetta> from them. If the young woman provides a basket full of sweets, the courtship can continue.

On the Saturday following 15th August, there is the summer rendezvous with Dolceacqua’s fireworks, during which the legends of the town are narrated, accompanied by music and fireworks. A unique setting at the foot of the Doria castle, a magical place, full of history and tradition.

[Samirah Muran]