Characteristic parties of baiardo

Baiardo hosts several annual festivals which attract people from all over Italy as well as abroad. The most famous and genuine is Re Barca, a tree-raising festival that serves as a good introduction to the layers of history that you will have the chance to explore. The tree is raised on Pentecost Sunday (date) and lowered the following Sunday.

The oldest context for the festival is pagan, and the tree-raising was meant to ensure fertility for the people and crops of the village. In medieval times, it took on another layer. Baiardo was for a time under the jurisdiction of Pisa, and Pisans came to chop trees for their boats (as did the Genovese). Trouble began when the Count's daughter fell in love with a Pisan sailor and they tried to elope. On the outskirts of the village, in an area now known as Viale dei innamorati (lover's lane) the Count caught up with the doomed couple, chopped his daughter's head off and hung it from a tree in the village centre for all and sundry to learn a lesson. His other daughter then proceeded to take a vow of silence and joined a convent.

In the village centre, there is a hole that is covered with cement slabs. Once a year these slabs are pulled up. A huge pine tree is cut and brought to the village, stripped of its bark, and a fresh green pine branch is nailed to the top. The base of the tree is situated at the edge of the hole and as the men of the village heave it up and place ever taller supports under it, the mayor pounds the base into the hole until it stands erect and is secured with dirt and the concrete slabs. It would appear a rather dangerous operation, but the tree is guided and held by teams of men pulling on ropes in four directions.

Once the tree has been erected, the women of the village form a circle around its base and sing the tale of the count's daughter in the local dialect called Baiocco. They walk first in one direction, then in the other, singing in accompaniment to local musicians. The veteran American musicologist Alan Lomax recorded this song, among others, in Baiardo in 1954. It is now available on cd.

The tree remains in place for a week. Before it is lowered, the song is performed again and then the tree is auctioned off to the highest bidder. One of the village elders (incidentally a former partisan) officiates at the festival each year. Dressed in a stunning yellow costume with the crest of Baiardo on his chest, he is meant to represent the Count.

During the summer months there are a host of local Feste (parties) which are held throughout all the local villages where you can join in the festivities of music, food and wine. There is also an annual summer beer festival sponsored by the local council. It involves tasty beers, grilled meat, music and a bonfire.

Whatever you decide to do in Baiardo, the choice is yours to experience a truly memorable holiday!