The annual celebration is called Segavecia or Segavecchia, literally meaning “old woman sawn”, and has a slightly gruesome history.
The origin of the tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when an old woman was accused of eating meat (violating the Lent fasting) and condemned to be sawn into two.
To remember this episode, a huge puppet made of papier- mâché is built, which represents the woman.
When it’s cut open, the puppet reveals toys and sweets which are then distributed to the children.
Some believe the ritual has even older origins that derive from peasant traditions connected to the season’s cycle: the old woman should represent the end of winter and the sweets and toys the return of spring, rich with fruits and nature’s gifts for mankind.
During the five days of festivities, there are also carnival rides, stands selling gourmet products (in particular dried fruit that are also called segavecia) and live entertainment.
The highlight of the festival is the parade of floats throughout the town’s streets.
The most important float is the one with the old woman atop, who is sawn in front of the fortress in Garibaldi Square.
Youngsters crowd around to get their share of sweets and toys, as many generations before them have done!
This year’s Segavecia was scheduled to take place from March 15 to 22, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.